The north of England’s first dedicated fresh produce sea terminal is set to slash the amount of fresh produce transported to the UK by lorry.

The £6m Liverpool Produce Terminal, which will soon have a dedicated packhouse, is expected to receive its first shipment of produce from the Spanish port of Gandia in the next two weeks.

More than 95% of the two million tonnes of Spanish produce imported each year is currently road-freighted. The rest arrives by sea, mainly to southern ports.

Citrus fruit is expected to be among the first shipments to the 90,000 sq ft temperature and atmosphere-controlled terminal.

Transporting produce from Spain by sea rather than road would reduce the CO2 emissions from 50g per tonne per kilometre to 24.9g per tonne per kilometre, claimed LPT operations director Andy Rickard.

Sea transport to the north English terminal would be possible for a wide range of produce as well as less perishable goods such as fruit juice and ice cream, he added. Only the most perishable items, such as leafy salads, might not be suited the journey, which takes a day longer than to southern ports, he said.

Discussions were already under way with South African and South American exporters about sending produce via Liverpool, he revealed, adding that Egyptian and Israeli producers were also looking at establishing a regular sea route to the UK via Spain.

UK supermarkets were now considering how they could alter their supply chains to switch to sea-freighted produce, he said. Those that did switch would be able to make considerable savings once ships reached full capacity, he said. “They are excited. They are just evaluating how it would affect their networks, changes in control in the supply chain and so on,” he said.

At the moment, the bulk of produce comes in via the fresh produce sea terminal at Sheerness, though there are smaller facilities at Bristol and Cardiff.