Southampton port has placed a £26m order for four new, huge, ship-to-shore gantry cranes as part of its redevelopment of deep-sea container berths in the city’s docks.

A £90m project to upgrade berths 201 and 202 in the western docks will enable the container terminal to handle the growing number of ultra large container vessels (ULCCs), cementing the city’s position at the forefront of global container trade.

Saints |connection The cranes are being built in Ireland by Liebherr, the company owned by the family behind the takeover of Southampton Football Club. They will be shipped to Southampton in component form before being assembled on site.

Once operational, the cranes will be able to handle ULCCs of 24 containers wide and will have a lift capacity of 65 tonnes.

Doug Morrison, ABP port director Southampton, said: “The number of large vessels in operation has increased considerably in recent years, and we are now seeing regular calls by vessels carrying 13,000 container units.

“It is imperative that we have state of the art cranes on our new berth to allow short turnaround times for these vessels.”

The four new cranes will be supplemented by a fifth similar Liebherr crane, which will be relocated from Southampton’s existing container berths.

Pat O’Leary, managing director of Liebherr Container Cranes, said the contract will bring the number of Liebherr cranes at the port to ten.

“This order reflects the confidence which ABP and DP World Southampton have in the ability of the Liebherr product to deliver their requirements in respect of performance and customer service.”

Chris Lewis, managing director of DP World Southampton, which runs the container terminal in a joint venture with ABP, said: “The new berth and cranes will ensure we remain globally competitive and successful by being able to handle the largest container vessels afloat.

“Having this new infrastructure capability is vital and underscores Southampton’s position as the first and last deep-sea port of call in Northern Europe for the Far East, with its sheltered location, first-class road and rail distribution links to the Midlands and market-leading service and productivity.”

The new berth is expected to be operational in early 2014.