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New sea link to transport tomatoes from North Africa to Liverpool

Dutch shipping operator WEC Lines is launching a new freight service that will connect Agadir in Morocco with the Port of Liverpool. The new route is designed for importers of fresh produce from North Africa, especially as Morocco has surpassed Spain as one of the UK's largest suppliers of tomatoes.

WEC Lines has operated ships between Liverpool, Portugal, and Spain since 2019. In February 2023, it added a new series of weekly calls from Northern Spain, Portugal, North Africa, and the Canary Islands. "There's a gap in the market here for wholesalers and supermarkets that want a choice for how they get fresh produce to the UK because now they've only one option," said Roger Megann, managing director of WEC Lines.

The service will utilize WEC's existing fleet of vessels, which operate around 850 to 1,000 TEU. These vessels are already used to ship UK refrigerated goods to tourists and ex-pat residents in the Canary Islands. They will now extend their route via Agadir before returning to the UK, with the potential for reefers to load in Spain and Portugal in addition to the dry cargoes.

Ian Cressey, port director at Peel Ports' Port of Liverpool, said: "So many of the big wholesalers and retailers have their distribution centers in the North West. So it makes sense to ship the produce straight here rather than clogging up the UK and mainland Europe's roads."

To support the service, WEC is taking delivery of around 50 additional refrigerated units and expects to add more units to the fleet in the next phase. A survey by Peel Ports last year found that 76% of retail leaders would choose to import goods closer to end destinations if given a choice on their port of entry by shipping lines.


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