For many centuries Hull has been dependent on its port as the source of most of its business and industry. The port still plays an important part in the economy of the city, although not such a dominant one as in the past given the decline in the fishing industry. Food processing companies associated with the fishing industry are now important employers in the city, alongside newer businesses that take advantage of Hull still being a major UK port. Hull and Humberside is one of the eight regions that make up the £30 billion ‘Northern Way’ economic development initiative, to attract and develop business opportunities in the region.
The port of Hull originally was founded on trade with northern Europe and came to have one of the largest UK trawler fleets working in the North Sea. Today the port is still very busy accounting for nearly 20% of UK imports and a total of 15% of all the UKs seaborne trade. Whilst the port handles many different commodities from containers and perishable foods to steel, minerals and ores; its main trade is in timber and the one million passengers a year that use its ferry services. The fishing industry in Hull is undergoing a revival following the development of the Fishgate fish auction market. Whilst the trawler fleet might be smaller the new technologies being used mean that high volumes of fish can still be caught and then sold at the market, which has a facility enabling freezer trawlers to land their catch directly into cold storage. The Ro-Ro terminal has 11 berths operated by P&O and Finnlines, with regular services to Holland, Belgium and Scandinavia. Whilst some small boat building does still take place in Hull, most of its marine engineering companies are concerned with the maintenance and repair of existing boats. Some of them, like Shiptech, offer a range of consultancies concerning various aspects of marine engineering from repairs to tonnage assessments.
Not surprisingly Hull is the location for several food processing companies, especially those concerned with the fishing industry. Originally formed by a consortium of Hull trawlers, Seven Seas is a trade name mainly associated with cod liver oil products in the UK and has had a factory in Hull since the 1930s. In recent years the resurgence in popularity of cod liver oils health care properties has meant the company is now the brand leader not only in the UK but also in parts of Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. However, the nations move toward more healthy diets and eating has not helped another company in Hull. Since being bought by the private equity firm Permira from Unilever; one of the countries best known brands in frozen food, Birdseye, is threatening to close its Hull food processing plant that currently employs 600 people. It was established in 1967 and as well as processing frozen fish products it is the centre for the annual pea harvest in the UK. Other frozen food companies with factories and production facilities in Hull include: Findus, Young’s and PolarFrost.
Located at nearby Brough, BAe Systems has one of its eight UK Military Air Solutions factories, employing over 1000 people. This site is involved in the design, manufacture and development of combat and reconnaissance aircraft. For several decades craftsmen in and around Hull have developed a reputation for building many of the caravans on sale in the UK and is now the largest caravan manufacturing area in Europe. Major companies actually located in Hull include Willerby, Atlas and Consort; who all specialise in producing static ‘holiday home’ caravans. Also, in nearby Beverley is ABI(UK), one of the best known names in touring caravan production.
BP has the second largest acetyls production facility in the world at Hull and the world’s largest ethyl acetate production plant. In total the site produces 1.4 million tonnes of chemicals that are used in the manufacture of pharmacological drugs, solvents, varnishes and aroma enhancers. Croda International is one of many other companies concerned with the production of a range of chemicals for personal, pharmacy, home and industrial uses. Reckitt Benckiser might not be a name familiar to High Street shoppers. However, some of their products might be! This is the company behind such brand names as: Nurofen, Lemsip, Dettol and Optrex to name but four of their products which are manufactured at the company’s Healthcare centre in Hull. Until 1999 the company was known as Reckitt Colman and could trace the origins of the company back to 1814 when J Colman began producing mustard in Norwich. In 2006 the company also acquired Boots Healthcare for almost £2 billion. Alongside producers of chemicals for the pharmacy industry is another company that works in the healthcare sector - Smith & Nephew, who specialise in products concerning the recovery of wounds, non-invasive surgery and orthopaedics.