Plans for the first post-Panamax container terminal on the UK’s West Coast have been given the go-ahead by the Department of Transport.

The ‘90 million development on the River Mersey would almost double container capacity at the Port of Liverpool ’ Britain’s third ranking deep-sea container port and the No 1 gateway for container trade with North America.

The decision follows Peel Ports Group’s application to create the first facility capable of accommodating the new generation of larger container ships on the UK West Coast and in the north of the country.

The Port of Liverpool last year handled 630,000 teus (20ft Container Units) and attracted three new North Atlantic container services in the first half of 2006. It now serves more than 100 non-European locations across the globe from the Americas, to the Indian sub-continent, the Far East and China. Its established in-dock Royal Seaforth Container Terminal, which over the last five years has undergone more than ‘30 million worth of investment, can handle up to 800,000 teus a year.

Tom Allison, Chief Executive of Peel Ports ’ Britain’s second largest ports group ’ welcomed the decision by the Government for what he described as ‘the most significant development for the Port of Liverpool since the construction of Royal Seaforth Dock in the late 1960s and early ‘70s. ‘This project is a response to the growing recognition of the Port of Liverpool’s strategic position as the gateway to the richest cargo generating region of the United Kingdom outside London,’ he said.

‘It is also a project which we are convinced will have major long term economic and strategic benefits for the region, generating significant additional work and wealth.’

The new terminal will be created by building a river wall from the corner of Royal Seaforth Dock to Gladstone Lock, close to the mouth of the Mersey. The triangle will then be filled in to create a 17 hectare (42 acre) terminal with annual capacity for more than 500,000 teus and capable of simultaneously accommodating two post-Panamax ships.

Peel Ports Marketing Director Frank Robotham, added: ‘The new terminal will be a further significant boost to industry in the North of England and beyond. To date, post Panamax vessels have only had the option to berth in UK south coast ports. Once the new terminal is opened in Liverpool, then industry throughout the North and Midlands can enjoy the dual benefits of being able to respond to the demands of international logistics through their own local port, utilising these larger vessels which bring their own economies of scale.’

With a second container terminal, Liverpool is set to consolidate established trades and expand into new sectors, building on its ranking as the leading UK container port for trade with the United States of America and Canada and enlarging the range of more than 100 global destinations it already serves.

The new facility will also enhance the Port’s role as the premier transhipment hub for Ireland, currently handling more than 40% of unitised freight crossing between Britain and Ireland.

Peel Ports Group that owns both the Port of Liverpool and the Manchester Ship Canal, is developing the two as the international gateway and ‘green’ transhipment route to the UK’s major region for consumption and production after London, via the Ship Canal. The Group has applied for planning permission to develop Port Salford on the Canal as a multi-modal logistics centre for road, rail and maritime freight.’