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4 September 2013, 11:50 | Updated: 4 September 2013, 11:52
A deal that will see up to 500,000 tonnes of Spanish fruit shipped through the Port of Southampton every year is to create at least 60 local jobs.
Southampton Fruit Handling (SFH), based at Berth 104 in the Western Docks, has secured a deal with growers in Spain to import between 200,000 and 500,000 tonnes of tomatoes, lettuces, cucumbers, peppers, and other fresh produce.
Initially, the arrangement will see one new ship calling at Southampton every nine days; however, that number is expected to increase to two or three ship calls every week.
Transporting the Spanish produce by sea will save approximately 20 million kilometres of road miles every year and as a result cut co2 emissions by 47 per cent. The size of the deal will also mean much of the fresh fruit in UK supermarkets will have passed through the Port of Southampton.
Spanish Government minister, Sr Diego Martinez Cano, was in Southampton to witness the landmark deal yesterday (Wed), which comes as Hampshire Chamber of Commerce and its counterpart in Almeria, Spain, sign a historic Memorandum of Understanding, agreeing to work together.
SFH, which has been operating in Southampton since 1987, has a long-standing deal with the Canary Islands to import fresh produce during a seven-month season. The deal with mainland Spain trebles the size of SFH's business and turns it into a 52-weeks-a-year operation.
Managing Director Margaret Jenkinson, said:
"This is an incredible deal. We are in heaven. It's not just transformational for us but it's fantastic news for the city and the environment as well.
"We have been working hard to make a case for shipping fruit by sea and it has worked in spectacular fashion. Our deal with SFH was strengthened by our existing fruit terminal and haulage facilities provided by Fowler Welch (Coolchain), as well as the natural advantages of Southampton, with its road and rail links. From a logistics point of view Southampton is a great place to be."
Associated British Port's (ABP) Port Director Southampton, Doug Morrison, said:
"This is a real vote of confidence in Southampton and a key step in our ambition to continue to diversify our business here.
"The advantages of shipping by sea, particularly for the environment, combined with the strength of Southampton's superb connections to the rest of the country, means the port makes a uniquely compelling case to the Spanish growers."