New Spain-U.K. fruit trade route scrapped

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New Spain-U.K. fruit trade route scrapped

A new shipping route which would have seen hundreds of thousands of tons of fresh fruit transported between Spain and the U.K. has fallen flat – for now at least. Southampton Port small - Flickr - Amandabhslater

Plans to operate a three-day shipping route and cargo service between ports in Almería and Southampton on the south coast of England, have been shelved, can reveal.

Following much fanfare and celebration, the story took an unexpected turn this week, resulting in the route's temporary cancellation.

Originally, up to 500,000 metric tons (MT) of fresh Spanish produce was going to be exported every year from the Andalusia region directly to the English docks, promising to create jobs, improve trade between the two countries and help Spanish farmers export more to the U.K. and beyond.

However, the company originally handling the delivery in the U.K., Southampton Fruit Handling Ltd, has been acquired by another firm,  Solvent Stevedores, which has put the route on ice.

Solvent Stevedores managing director Ian Jacobs confirmed the purchase, slating his intent to develop the business, although plans were still in their early stages.

"I would say unfortunately the Almería to Southampton shipping route is shelved for the moment but not indefinitely," Jacobs said.

"Our company has a good reputation and that is something that we have worked hard for over the years and now we are trying to find ways to go forward. As a business, we are looking at the Almería to Southampton route and we hope to develop it at some time in the future, but for now it is not operating.

"As the new owners we will be working hard to establish the Almería to Southampton route but we do not want to rush into anything, but this is most definitely not over. We will be working hard with all of the parties involved including the relevant Spanish authorities."

Earlier this year, Spanish and British politicians and business leaders signed a bilateral agreement formalising trade links between the chambers of commerce in both regions. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) recognised both countries have a common interest in developing commercial ties and developing trade growth.

What followed was a celebration of the launch of a new maritime trade route which promised to create up to 60 new jobs at Southampton’s Western Docks and, of course, help Spanish growers sell their produce to the U.K. market.

It was also hailed as an alternative and more environmentally friendly way to transport fresh produce from Spain because it would save an estimated 20 million kilometres of road travel every year, significantly reducing carbon emissions. It was also hoped the new route could become a logistic platform for fresh produce to go onwards to other European countries.

Hampshire Chamber chief executive Jimmy Chestnutt said he was saddened by the news.

"However, Solent Stevedores is an excellent company with a good track record in the port of Southampton and if any company is capable of re-establishing this route then it is them," Chestnutt said.

"We in the Chamber of Commerce saw this (the Almería to Southampton route) as a good business opportunity as we have good relations with Almería and the Chamber of Commerce there and we look forward to seeing this route start at some point in the future."

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons, Amandabhslater

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