ONE of the world's largest shipping lines has started operating services into Teesport in a move that could bolster the port's campaign to bring 7,000 jobs to the region.

As port owner PD Ports announced its half-year results yesterday, it revealed that MSC, the second-largest container shipping line in the world, began a weekly service last month.

Martyn Pellew, group development director at PD, said the interest shown by major shipping lines and terminal operators in Teesport had been encouraging - which will boost its case for expansion.

PD Ports is campaigning for the Government to call a halt to expansion at southern ports and allow Teesport to build a deep-sea container terminal, which would take container goods directly to the North instead of to the South, only to transport the goods north by lorry.

With Asda announcing it is building an import centre on the Tees, the port has seen increased volumes of container traffic.

It is now hoped the Government will turn down applications for expansion at Felixstowe and Harwich, and instead allow Teesport to build a £300m container terminal, which would provide a major lift for the North-East economy and take millions of lorry miles off the roads.

PD is preparing a planning application, which will be ready by the spring.

The Northern Echo is backing PD with the Support Our Port campaign.

Load-on, load-off container volumes at Teesport increased by seven per cent following the addition of feeder services, which carry products unloaded from larger vessels elsewhere, PD said.

It also more than doubled the amount of steel slab it handles, thanks to a rise in exports from Corus.

More shipping lines were also attracted to existing deep water facilities at Teesport, which comprises the ports of Tees and Hartlepool, and handles about 50 million tonnes of cargo a year.

Amid strong growth at Teesport, PD's ports division has reported half-year revenue growth of five per cent to £57.8m, while profits rose 13 per cent to £13.5m. Growth was also driven by a better performance in logistics-related operations.