6. Transport Links to Key Trade Destinations

6. Transport Links to Key Trade Destinations

Transport Links to Key Trade Destinations

This chapter provides further details of the top 5 nations which Scotland exports to (the Netherlands, USA, Germany, China and France) with details of the key freight links to and from them. Four of these countries are also in the top 5 of the countries which Scotland imports from (USA, China, Germany and the Netherlands), with Norway being the additional country making up Scotland’s top 5 import countries, so an overview of freight to Norway is also included. 

As was highlighted earlier in the report, the Republic of Ireland up until 2016 had been one of Scotland’s Top 5 export partners. Although the total proportion of Scotland’s exports to the Republic has decreased, the country still remains an important strategic trading partner for Scotland and so an overview of trade to Ireland is included, as well as to Northern Ireland.

As has been highlighted earlier in this report key export commodities from Scotland include beverages, fish, petroleum related products, and power generation machinery. Many of these goods are produced by businesses operating in Scotland’s Growth Sector. Similar categories of goods are also imported by Scotland along with gas, telecommunication, and office equipment. An overview of the key commodity categories with Scotland’s Top 6 trading partners is given in the Annex (Table 2). Details of the transportation of these goods to/from the 6 countries is discussed below.

6.1 Norway

Since 2013, Scotland has imported more goods from Norway than any other nation. Over that time, imports from Norway have totalled more than £19.4 billion. The majority of goods imports are related to the energy and fuel markets, which reflects both countries’ close involvement in North Sea oil and gas production and exploration. Natural Gas, Petroleum products and related materials are transported to Scotland using ports and pipelines connecting Norway and the UK. 

As aforementioned, a large proportion of natural gas (Scotland’s largest import good from Norway) travels via pipeline to Scotland from Norway. The trade market for this good is valued at around £3.1 billion[38] to the Scottish economy.

A significant part of Scottish exports to Norway are large machinery items and transport equipment. Some of these larger high value items travel in cargo planes bound for Norway, while other smaller items are able to travel in the hold of passenger flights. This is similar to seafood which is traded with Norway with an ever-growing amount being transported along commercial and passenger aviation transport routes.

Freight ferries travel twice weekly from Immingham on England’s east coast to Norway with road links from Scotland to Immingham via the A1(M) and A180(M).

In terms of passenger flights, Scottish travellers can fly to Norway from any one of Scotland’s 4 major airports; Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness, with flights into the capital (Oslo) leaving from Scotland almost daily.

6.2 EU Countries

Three of Scotland’s top trading partners are EU nations; the Netherlands, France and Germany. The key commodity group for goods exported and imported to the three countries is ‘Machinery and transport equipment’. As was highlighted in Chapter 3, freight to and from mainland Europe can be carried in a number of different ways. For instance some perishable goods are transported via the trunk road / motorway network in Scotland and England to the Channel Tunnel or Channel ferry terminals, or air. Less time sensitive perishables may be transported on freight vessels from Scotland’s ports or transported to North Sea ferry service terminals in Newcastle and Hull which offer overnight ferry services to continental Europe.

At the moment there are no direct rail freight services from Scotland to mainland Europe, however non-perishable freight can be carried by rail to hubs in England for transfer by rail or other modes to European destinations.

6.2.1 France

Scotland imports a large amount of power generating equipment from France. This includes engines for vehicles, turbines, regulators and generators. These goods are often shipped via coastline shipping as well as bulked smaller items being transported by air.

France is also the largest EU market for Scotch whisky and seafood exports. The main wholesale market for Scotland’s seafood on the European mainline is Boulogne sur Mer located close to Calais in northern France. This is accessible via the Dover Channel Crossing. Scottish freight vessels can travel to the Channel in a day, so this corridor is of vital importance to trade with France and the rest of Europe.

Scotland’s primary links for trade with France are via road and port. HGVs carry goods down to Dover where they board ships to transfer over to France. Scotland has a number of air links with France, with flights to 20 different French airports available from one of Scotland’s 5 major airports.

6.2.2 Germany

Similar to above, Scotland has a number of air links with Germany, with direct flights from Scotland to 17 German airports.

An important commodity exported to Germany is Scottish beverages which in 2016 totalled over £162 million. This represents 4% of total Scottish beverage exports in 2016, and 6% of all Scottish exports to Germany. While Germany is the UK’s largest export market, this is not the same for Scotland with Germany accounting for 9.5% of all Scottish trade in goods (imports and exports) in 2016. Having said that, transport links between Scotland and Germany are vital for Scottish trade, with Germany being the largest economy in Europe in terms of GDP and one of the strongest in the world.

In terms of road transport, freight data shows that while most country level data is too small to be accurately used, data for 2016 shows that 12% of all Scottish freight bound for international (non-UK) destinations went to Germany. Road freight travelling from Scotland to any of the countries in continental Europe, as mentioned before, is likely to go via the Dover-Calais port crossing and/or the Eurotunnel.

Links between Scotland and Germany via ports are likely to be either charter ships carrying special goods into one of Germany’s many Northwest ports (the three largest ports are Bremen, Hamburg and Wilhelmshaven), or taken into France or Netherlands via ship before a modal shift to road or rail for the remainder of the journey.

6.2.3 The Netherlands

As has been highlighted earlier the Netherlands is Scotland’s key export destination (£4.3 billion in 2017) as a result of the dominance of the Dutch port of Rotterdam. The port acts as an international shipping hub with goods shipped on to other destinations from there. Due to the method in which export / import data is collected it is difficult to ascertain the final destination of goods which may pass through Rotterdam. Freight is typically carried by chartered vessels originating from Scottish ports or by road to ports on the east coast of England. Some of the freight to the Netherlands is be carried by road via the Channel ports. While there are no regular scheduled sailings between the Netherlands and Scotland, the overnight ship between Newcastle and Amsterdam is an option for travellers and for HGVs. The main import good from the Netherlands is in office machines and telecommunication materials. Key exports to the Netherlands from Scotland include; Petroleum products, Medicinal & pharmaceutical products, and beverages, with these three goods alone accounting for 87% of total Scottish exports to the Netherlands in 2017.

Scotland’s top 4 airports offer regular passenger flights to the four main airports in the Netherlands; Amsterdam, Maastricht, Rotterdam and Eindhoven.

6.2.4 Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland

Although in 2016 the Republic of Ireland dropped out of Scotland’s top 5 export destinations, it is still a core market for Scottish goods. In 2016 Scotland exported £1,025 million goods to the Republic accounting for 3.4% of Scotland’s total exports. The main category of goods traded with the country are gas (natural and manufactured), petroleum and petroleum related products, and beverages.

Northern Island is also an important destination for Scotland’s goods, however given the nature of export data and the fact that Northern Ireland is part of the UK, values and goods exported to or imported from the country are included in overall UK figures and are not easily disaggregated. 

The main transport freight corridor between Scotland and the island of Ireland is via the ferry and freight services which operate from Cairnryan / Loch Ryan. There are a total of 13 daily sailings to Larne or the Port of Belfast, with an estimated 400,000 freight units carried on this corridor (around 1,200 a day). Two main trunk roads link the port with the central belt (A77) and from the east / England (A75). The two roads are estimated to carry a combined estimated £67 million worth of goods per day[39]

All of Scotland’s main airports have regular flights to a variety of destinations in both Northern Ireland and the Republic (Belfast, Derry, Dublin, Cork, Knock, Kerry, Shannon and Waterford).

6.3 Further afield

While the ports in mainland Europe are vital for Scottish trade, Scottish businesses regularly transport goods even further overseas, with chartered aircraft and ships travelling to Africa, South America and Asia, carrying a variety of goods.

6.3.1 USA

Similar to the EU countries that feature in Scotland’s top trade partners, USA is a key market for Scottish beverage exports, even more so than France, Germany and the Netherlands. In 2017, the USA alone accounted for over 25% of all Scottish beverage exports.

Beverage exports are Scotland’s second largest export good, valued at £4.1 billion in 2016. The United States is Scotland’s single largest overseas market for Scotch whisky, accounting for £1.1 billion (25%)[40] of all Scotch whisky exports in 2017.

Over the last decade a number of scheduled passenger flights from Glasgow and Edinburgh Airports to the United States have been introduced. Scheduled airlines now fly from Edinburgh to New York JFK; New York Newark; Chicago, Washington DC, Philadelphia and, from summer 2019 to Boston.  Glasgow has direct routes to New York JFK and New York Newark. Seasonal flights also operate to Orlando and Las Vegas.

These flights are often used to carry low volume freight, for instance time sensitive blood and human tissue. Dedicated air freighters regularly use Prestwick Airport to carry aircraft engines between Scotland and the USA. These are usually entire engines which are transported to Scotland for overhaul or repair before being shipped back.

In addition to these air links, a number of charter ships leave regularly from Scotland to the USA. From the Clyde ports, Scotland ships goods to the USA regularly, these include agriculture bulk goods and forestry goods. Aberdeen Harbour handles machinery and equipment goods imports from the US, and ships oil related goods back.

Both the USA and China are important import and export destinations for Scotland’s ports, particularly in relation to Office, Automatic Data Processing, power generating and other transport machinery. Due to the bulk of these items these can only be handled by main ports such as Clyde Port and Aberdeen Harbour.

6.3.2 China

In March of 2018, Scotland secured its first direct air route to China, with direct links between Edinburgh and Beijing. The first flights were in June 2018 and although these are passenger flights, this created a direct link for Scottish goods exporters, particularly in the food and drink sector, for which China are a major importer from Scotland.

In addition to this and similar to that mentioned above, in terms of port freight travel, Scotland exports goods to China from a number of its ports – these include the Forth and Clyde Ports. These goods include steel, and power generating equipment. 

Data from the latest HMRC RTS show that Scotland also export a large amount of oil and oil related products to China. In 2017, Scotland exported £3.96 billion worth of Petroleum, petroleum products and related materials to China, this was a 44% increase in the previous year. These goods travel via tanker to China and are likely to be loaded onto ships from various ports around the UK.

Scotland’s link with China does not only promote trade with Chinese businesses but also provides Scottish exporters access to additional markets in and around South East Asia. This is therefore a vital gateway into other emerging and developing market economies for Scottish goods.