HUNDREDS of jobs could be created in a £180m deal at a North-East port.

The Port of Tyne, in South Shields, has unveiled plans to build warehouses storing thousands of tonnes of wood pellets for the renewable energy market.

The move could create 300 full-time jobs and support 900 construction posts, and would be the port's largest ever investment.

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Bosses are discussing the plans with funding partners and work could start this year.

The proposals include building wood pellet warehousing, extending the port's Riverside Quay by 100m, laying railway lines and closing a public by-way.

The port, which oversees deliveries for Nissan, VW, Tetley and JML, is one of the world's largest handlers of wood pellets and is the UK's biggest car exporter.

Andrew Moffat, Port of Tyne chief executive, said the proposals emphasised their commitment to the bio-energy industry.

He said: “We see renewable energy as the next major area of growth for us and that is why we are working with major power generation companies to identify their future needs to make sure we can match them.

“These are very significant plans which are imperative for the sustainability of the port and the future delivery of Government carbon reduction targets.

“The proposals represent sophisticated and highly specialised storage areas which will reduce the environmental impact and maintain our position as a world leader in handling this important fuel.”

The plans are part of a wider investment at the port, which will welcome a £6m gantry crane at its container terminal later this year.

The port, which runs international ferry and cruise ship terminals, wants to attract offshore engineering development and offshore wind turbine builders to the site.

Mr Moffat said: “The port is on target for another year of record turnover and profit.

“However, to continue to survive and thrive, we must maintain a competitive advantage, and these forward thinking plans will enable us to do just that.”

David Miliband, MP for South Shields, said its eco-friendly plans were another boost for the North-East economy.

He said: “The Port’s vision and ambition will provide the jobs we need in this area now and for the future and support the important growth of renewable fuels.”