TWO of the world’s largest ocean carriers have berthed in tandem at Southampton ’s container terminal for the first time ushering in “a new era” for the port.

The calls by Hapag-Lloyd’s Hamburg Express and UASC’s Jebel Ali, each capable of carrying more than 13,000 boxes, came as the port prepares to start redevelopment works so it can handle four of the next generation of ultra-large container ships at one time.

It was Hamburg Express’s maiden call to the container terminal, where productivity has risen by 20 per cent due to better working methods and a dynamic “can-do” culture.

The ships were welcomed by senior figures from DP World Southampton, which runs the container terminal, and docks owners Associated British Ports (ABP).

Doug Morrison, ABP’s port director in Southampton and Chris Lewis, managing director of DP World Southampton, said the calls ushered in “a new era” for the port, which supports an estimated 10,000 jobs in the region.

Mr Lewis said: “This is an historic occasion for the terminal, and one that illustrates how Southampton is geared up to handle these gigantic vessels.

“Against this exciting backdrop, we aim to be the container terminal of choice for customers in the UK and, as a result, secure and create valuable jobs throughout the supply chain, from the quayside to the supermarket shelves.

“Our customers rightly expect the best of operational capability at a deep-sea container terminal, as well as the best productivity, flexibility and fastest turnaround times.”

Mr Morrison added: “These giant container vessels, with all the economies of scale they bring, are predicted to account for more than half of the capacity of the world’s total container fleet by 2015.

“By way of personal experience, in my seven years here container ships have nearly doubled in TEU capacity.

“Shipping lines are drawn to Southampton because our location means a minimum deviation from the main shipping lanes thereby offering their customers faster transit times. This means that we are often the first and last port of call in and out of Northern Europe.

“With an inspirational ‘can-do’ culture, the DP World Southampton team is breaking ship and landside productivity records to ensure that Southampton stays ahead of its British competitors and ranks among the best in Europe.”

After months of red tape and a challenge by the rival port operator for Felixstowe, ABP Southampton was earlier this year issued with licences to carry out work to combine berths 201 and 202 and upgrade a 500m quay wall to create a new fourth berth for super-sized container ships.

The £150m expansion scheme, creating 200 jobs, is part of a plan to boost handling capacity from two million to 2.7 million 20ft container boxes by 2020.