Gibraltar Saves Time Twice

on Monday, 13 May 2019. Posted in Petrospot News

It’s fair to say that “time is money”, and in the shipping industry this is certainly the case. When it comes to European maritime activity, it’s no secret that Gibraltar has always been a popular refuelling stop thanks to its enviable position in the Straits – but I want to consider it now as a true all-rounder.

Attracting a large number of the approximately 60,000 vessels that transit the Straits each year for bunkering services, the port has steadily developed a significant commercial draw for a range of other services.

Consider the size of Gibraltar – less than 7km sq – yes, it’s small but there is a great deal of merit in everyone within a local industry knowing everyone else. Down at Gibdock, the teams have an excellent understanding of what’s going on, and have daily interactions and collaborations with all the strands of people in the community required to make things work efficiently.

Efficiency is a bit of a buzz word around Gibraltar, and as Richard Beards at Gibdock explained to me recently, “[Our] competitiveness isn’t based purely on money – but on other factors involved in ship repairs which make a huge overall difference.”

When vessels come in, their downtime period is a large part of the cost of repair; often more than the cost of the actual repair, in fact. The competitive element of stopping in Gibraltar is a blend of rates and costs, but also one of location and both scale and range of services. Certainly, the hours spent at port are less costly when vessels might re-fuel, repair, complete a crew swap, update health and safety requirements, and engage an underwater cleaning service concurrently.

In the past, for example, clients docking in Gibraltar might have employed an entire safety team, within their own management structure – now, they can employ a smaller team, or even one officer who can work with the yard to provide and manage their safety needs.

With three dry docks (the largest of which is a panama dock) and 1,000m of deep water wharf, large shipping is no sweat for Gibdock – cruise ships, offshore ships, local tankers, bunker supply barges and yachts all make up the diverse client base. Given the varied nature of clients, the docks at Gibraltar are highly specialised, and have an excellent reputation for delivering on quality. Service providers cannot enter on to the tender list or win work at Gibdock if they haven’t proved the quality of their track record.

As we’re all aware, changing regulations for ballast water and the sulphur cap are at the top of the agenda in shipping at the moment, but companies based in Gibraltar are confident that they can assist their clients to reach compliance with minimum fuss. “We have all the mechanisms in place,” Gilbert Licudi (Minister of the Port) told me, “Vessels will get exactly the regulations that they need when they come to Gibraltar.”

Finally, I can’t write about the diversity of Gibraltar’s maritime offerings without mentioning the brand-new marina for smaller boats. Taking advantage of the outer wharf, it features a vertical outer wall with casings in order to also attract super yachts – with this new space, super yachts may stay for several days to enable leisure time and crew swaps, alongside the previously very short stops to re-fuel.

To borrow a phrase from the Captain of the Port, Gibraltar has become a “port of choice, rather than convenience” – and it certainly seems to be steaming ahead at the forefront of industry developments both in and out of the water.