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Peel has formally launched its Mersey Ports masterplan, a £500m investment over ten years that it said could create 7,500 new jobs in Liverpool and along the Manchester Ship Canal.

The largest single investment, of £250m, will go into the new in-river container terminal which Peel intends to have operational by 2014 - the year the enlarged Panama Canal opens, ushering in a new era of super-tankers.

Gary Hodgson, managing director of Peel Ports, said: "It is the right time in the economic cycle to do this. Not a lot has changed here in 20 years but we're looking to change the game over the next strategic period – this is not business as usual, but a new era. By the end of the calendar year we hope to have the final document in place."

Currently, 30 per cent of internationally traded goods are taken by container, a number expected to climb by 50 per cent over the next 20 years.

But if the UK is to hit its 2050 carbon targets, road freight volumes have to remain flat – Hodgson said that with its ownerships, along with ten motorways within ten miles and ten rail-linked distribution facilities within its estate, Peel has an advantage as logistics operators look to take freight from the roads onto rail and water.

He added: "A reduction in carbon, cost and congestion is what’s driving this strategy. We believe we can offer the cheapest ship-to-door logistics."

He told Insider: "There are shipping lines that haven't been able to look at Liverpool before, but if you can offer a value proposition to end-users they'll look at it. We anticipate taking market share."

Along with the new terminal, the investment includes new handling equipment, port-centric warehousing, investment in rail terminals, additional barges and investment in a series of six terminals along the Ship Canal.

Of these, Port Salford, Port Warrington and Port Ince (as part of the resource recovery park) already have consent. Sources including the Regional Growth Fund will be explored for the various sites.

Speaking to Insider, Peter Nears, Peel’s strategic planning director, added: "This is about making the North West more competitive; it's as much about the Manchester city region’s growth as Liverpool's. We believe this tallies with the government’s stated aim of re-balancing the UK economy. It’' important to us that we have a united North West behind us."

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