« on: July 17, 2018, 11:12:38 pm »
I've searched through the forums and posts and there are a few comments on Port Talbot, one being that the port's owner, ABP, considered moving the ferry terminal from their Swansea docks - presumably to the deep water harbour in Port Talbot.
This then got me thinking about how this could and would work in real life. There's no doubt that Port Talbot's deep water harbour is near enough perfect for ferries with a deep channel designed for large bulk carriers negating Swansea Bay's tidal depth restraints and plenty of room in the harbour even with two large bulk carriers berthed. Forgetting about the ferry infrastructure for a moment, the general infrastructure around the port is goo standard with a new dual carriageway from the steel plant to the nearby M4 which can take freight east towards London, Bristol and up to the Midlands through the Ross Spur. A key disadvantage of Pembroke Dock and Fishguard is the poor road access to both ports with the road to Pembroke Dock being marginally better although both still relatively poor single carriageway A roads.
There have also been discussions about a Bristol to Cork ferry/freight route as well albeit the constraints of such a route being noted, particularly the distance and time taken meaning one return journey every 2 days and the tidal/lock restrictions at Avonmouth. A Port Talbot ferry terminal could be a better option here with a ferry/freight route presumably being similar in time and distance as the old Swansea Cork Ferry service meaning a return journey per day and the more open access at the lock free harbour as well. In addition, the South Wales economy and transport is closely tied with that of Bristol and the West Country with people commuting from the respective areas. If a ferry service close to centres of population is required then Port Talbot would stand a good chance.
Where Port Talbot falls down as an idea (aside from any commercial arrangements with Tata as an example) is the large capital expenditure required to make the harbour a ferry port as well as a bulk carrier port. The new Stena port in Loch Ryan cost c£200m so this would be a big capital outlay by ABP and likely only with the backing of either an operator or the Welsh Government. This in turn leads on to other issues as Irish Ferries and Stena Line still seem embedded in Pembroke Dock and Fishguard respectively. Although the new linkspan at Fishguard has been delayed, neither operator shows any sign of moving (not that there are many areas to move to on the southern corridor!). So, Port Talbot would have to lure away IF or SL meaning job losses in one or both of the poorest areas of Pembrokeshire and some of the poorest areas of Wales. No Welsh Government is going to support that unless it's pushed into offensive mode to protect an industry or jobs so, for example, supporting a new Port Talbot ferry if both Pembroke Dock and Fishguard were to close or their operators pull out of their respective southern corridor routes for commercial reasons citing poor infrastructure etc and the Welsh Govt steps in to secure the strategic route by investing in a more modern terminal at Port Talbot.
If we were a modern day Brunel and building a new ferry terminal for the souther corridor today then I think Port Talbot harbour would be an ideal location with a similar set up to Loch Ryan Port and a freight friendly service to Cork (probably). Having seen the importance of Fishguard and Pembroke Dock to the local economy however, I would hope they remain although how two terminals can be sustained a short distance away from each other is difficult. Perhaps another option would be for Milford Haven Port Authority to take a concession/stake in Fishguard from Stena so that the waterway could focus on energy shipments and developments and Fishguard could focus on RoRo with focused investment and either capacity for 2 ships or multiple daily sailings from 2 operators.
Sorry in advance for the brain dump! Couldn't help but think about this recently! Any insight or views would be greatly appreciated!