A NORTH-EAST dock has become the UK's first feeder port to be used by a vessel from a major global shipping development.

Teesport, operated by PD Ports, near Middlesbrough, welcomed BG Freight Line's Cetus J, which arrived from London Gateway.

The Gateway, on the banks of the River Thames, aims to bolster the UK's reputation as a hub for international trade.

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Capable of handling about 3.5 million 20ft containers every year, the Gateway operates six deep-water berths to accommodate the world's largest container ships.

Teesport handles 34 million tonnes of cargo every year and has a £16.7m container terminal, looking after steel slab for Redcar iron and steelmaker SSI and importing goods for supermarkets Tesco and Asda.

Geoff Lippitt, PD Ports’ business development director, said the presence of the 134-metre long Cetus J emphasised Teesport's reputation, adding he hopes its visit would be the start of a fruitful relationship with London Gateway.

Mr Lippitt said: “We are really pleased to see the first feeder vessel to sail from London Gateway made Teesport its first port of call.

“One of Teesport's strengths is the range and coverage of feeder services and we will continue to build on this and expand in the future.

“As London Gateway volumes begin to grow, we would expect in the future to see regular services just as we already have regular services from other major European ports.

“The Cetus J isn't one of the biggest vessels we’ve received, she is 134 metres and 6,320 tonnes and we've had vessels up to 203 metres in length before.

“It was carrying container cargo for a number of our major customers and Teesport is typically the first port on rotation for vessels of this type as it has a wide range of importers and customers that require this regularity and frequency of service.

“It is always important to establish links with major international hubs and this has been the key to the successful growth of our container operations over the last five years.”

Mr Lippitt added Teesport already has more than 20 vessel calls every week connecting the port to the major hub ports of Europe.

In October, PD Ports revealed a new weekly service from transportation firm MacAndrews would dock at Teesport, connecting it to Sweden and Poland.