First direct China-Scotland container service arrives at Greenock Ocean Terminal

30 August 2022

The first-ever direct container service connecting China and Scotland has berthed at Greenock Ocean Terminal after its maiden voyage – as it gets set to transport over one million bottles of whisky to the Far East.

The new east and west bound freight route from Ningbo, China, arrived for the first time at Scotland’s deepest container terminal on Saturday morning at 9.35am.

The service – a partnership between KC Liner Agencies, DKT Allseas and China Xpress – transported imports including textiles, furniture, and toys for the Scottish market.

The vessel’s containers will today be loaded with tens of thousands of cases of whisky in a boost for the export market, before it gets set to depart the terminal this evening on its route back to China.

Jim McSporran, Clydeport Director at Peel Ports, said: “It’s great to finally welcome this vital service to Greenock Ocean Terminal.

“Our terminal is the perfect fit for such a global trade connection, and this is again shown by the significant volumes we will be helping ship back to China.

“We believe this partnership will prove to be a hugely positive development for businesses and customers, as well as boosting the wider supply chain, and we look forward to continuing to work with our partners on this service in the coming months.”

David Milne, KC Group Shipping Managing Director, said: “We knew China Xpress was a service needed by many sectors, but still, we’ve been amazed at the level of immediate interest. It's been a phenomenal success for KC Group Shipping, but this is just the first of many journeys and we need the support of Scottish importers and exporters to safeguard the long-term future of this new service.

 "Our direct trading link to China cuts through frustrating transhipment delays which is a massive boost for Scottish businesses, and can only help consumers in these difficult times. 

 "We'll be toasting the success of over 1 million bottles of Scotch whisky being traded from the first vessel alone, and we'll raise a glass to all the other businesses which will also benefit.

 "I described this as a game changer for Scotland, and the uptake in the service is certainly proving that case, for Scotland’s furniture, pharmaceuticals, packaging and spirits sectors."

Councillor Stephen McCabe, leader of Inverclyde Council, said: “The freight side of Greenock Ocean Terminal can often be overshadowed and sometimes forgotten about because of the busy cruise ship schedule.

“But the container shipping side of the terminal has also grown substantially in recent years and the new Glasgow City Region cruise ship visitor centre development, including the dedicated cruise ship pontoon, has created more capacity for both container and passenger vessels to aid the continued growth of both markets and further boost the economy locally, regionally and nationally.

“The decision by KC Shipping to establish this direct link from Greenock to China – the first in Scotland –  combined with the visitor centre development and ambitious Clyde Green Freeport bid is a ringing endorsement of Greenock and Inverclyde as an important location for exports, imports and visitors and long may that continue.”  

The direct sailings will significantly reduce transit times, compared to feeder services via continental Europe or other southern UK ports.

Three sailings will take place per month in each direction, calling at Ningbo, and the Chinese city of Shenzhen, before arriving in Greenock via its “sister” container terminal at the Port of Liverpool.

The route will be operated by six ships of about 1,600TEUs [twenty foot equivalent units].

Greenock Ocean Terminal is currently responsible for the safe handling of a throughput of 100,000 TEUs a year.

Peel Ports recently announced it will install two new cranes on the site in the largest single investment made at the container terminal since it opened in 1969.

Peel Ports is a partner in the Clyde Green Freeport bid along with AGS Airports’ Glasgow Airport, Mossend International Railfreight Park in North Lanarkshire and a partnership of the Glasgow City Region councils.

The multimodal initiative would attract major new investment, develop global trading opportunities, create tens of thousands of new jobs, accelerate net-zero objectives agreed at COP26, and take the region’s world-class innovation economy to the next level.