Samskip ship

Container shipping company Samskip has launched a new direct, weekly service connecting Portugal and the UK.

The Dutch group is introducing a 1,000-TEU container ship on charter between Tilbury, Lisbon, Leixões and its multimodal hub port of Rotterdam. It aims to maintain a UK-Portugal transit time of five days.

It will also continue to offer four-times weekly services from Rotterdam to Leixões and weekly to Lisbon via space booked with other carriers.

The upgrade will allow the carrier to grow its Portugal-UK volumes by 30-40 per cent, according to Lisa Westerhuis, Samskip’s trade manager for Iberia.

She said: “We have been building our multimodal presence in Portugal for over a decade through shortsea, rail and last mile road services.

“Now, Samskip is responding to growing UK-Portugal demand with its own ship. When new capacity is required, we seek solutions where reliability and efficiency is in our own hands.”

Luis Paz da Silva, international commercial managing director of Noatum Maritime Services, Samskip’s agency in Portugal, said that 45 ft containers were proving key in persuading Portuguese importers and exporters to switch away from road haulage.

He said: “The 45-footer is especially competitive with trailers at distances of up to 200km from the ports, including cross-border,” estimating that the 45 ft market in Portugal today is four times bigger than it was 10 years ago.

The last decade has seen Samskip build closer relations with Portuguese exporters to the UK, with food and drinks businesses a specific target for the new direct service.

Southbound, the carrier’s European multimodal network that feeds shortsea links out of Rotterdam was being boosted by Norwegian exports in transit after the integration of the company’s 2017 acquisition Nor Lines, said Paz da Silva.

Westerhuis added that, as well as aligning with EU transport policy aspirations, the shortsea option is bringing significant CO2emissions savings over its road competitor.

With the service launch coinciding with continuing doubts about Brexit scenarios, Samskip has added staff to customer services in Portugal and to its UK customs team, while its customs clearance processes already cover markets external to the EU such as Norway.