The Port of London has its sights on being the UK’s busiest port once again

Extract from the Port of London Handbook 2019:

As terminal and wharf operators continue to invest in facilities and equipment, the Port of London has its sights on being the UK’s busiest port once again. 

The investment view from the bridge

Sometimes the best way to understand a river is to cross it.

And whether you are taking in the view from the soon-to-be Illuminated Bridges of central London, or from the passenger seat as you are driven over the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge at Dartford, those views tell the same story. It’s a story of investment, growth, development, confidence, opportunity. It’s a story of safety, quality, service, efficiency and ambition. It’s a story that deserves illuminating!

As cargo volumes continue to climb, the Port of London is looking at the prospect of reclaiming the title of the
UK’s busiest port. Terminal and wharf operators along the tidal Thames are investing in new and improved facilities and equipment, and they are welcoming new and expanded shipping services. Logistics operators are looking to the water for smart distribution solutions. Awareness is growing of just what the river can offer.

For stakeholders all along the river, the Port of London Authority’s Thames Vision has provided a new focus and direction, and there is a clear sense of the great opportunities that lie ahead.

“We are seeing major growth in volumes,” says PLA CEO Robin Mortimer. We handled over 53 million tonnes ofcargo in 2018 – you have to look back to the early 2000s when we were last at that level. If we continue to grow at this rate, we will be able to contend for the title of the UK’s biggest port, a position we last held in 1999.”

The past year has seen a phenomenal rise in volumes at DP World London Gateway; significant growth is also starting to flow at the Shell and OIKOS terminals following some major investments; and once consented, Tilbury2 will add a huge new extension to the Port of Tilbury, meeting growing demand for facilities on the Thames.

There has also been incredible success in building intra-port freight. The two years since the Vision launch saw a 40% surge in the underlying volume of freight moved between wharves on the Thames, removing thousands  of lorries from the capital’s roads.

Naturally, it is substantial growth that takes the headlines; but, says Robin Mortimer, the statistics are only part of the picture.

“Alongside this success, we have concentrated on, and achieved, a continued improvement in safety – we have seen fewer navigational incidents on the river, despite the volumes increasing.

“Meanwhile, again alongside the growth, we have taken up the challenge of meeting demand for pilotage. We have cracked the problems we had in 2017 with delays and our service levels reached 98% in in the final quarter of 2018.

“We have been recruiting 12 pilots a year for three years and those trainees are advancing through the system. Our new working practices have replaced systems that were decades old and our pilot allocation system has delivered exceptional results. The combination of all these brought us to the 98% level of service. We are not quite there, but we are getting there. We have had good feedback and we are still on track.”

Inland freight has been a particular focus and success story for London – reflecting years of unstinting work by the PLA and vindicating the Mayor of London’s safeguarding policy for strategically placed wharves along the Thames.

Peruvian Wharf, purchased by the PLA after an extremely lengthy legal battle, will begin operations once again in 2019 with the opening of the  Brett Group’s aggregate terminal. “We are trying to get hold of and reactivate further wharves to unlock freight development – that is a key priority,” says Robin Mortimer.

The PLA has also pushed forward with its green policies, becoming the first port in the UK to publish an Air Quality Strategy, strengthening the evidence base by undertaking monitoring, working to get volumes generated by major infrastructure projects such as the Thames Tideway Tunnel.

Double the number of people travelling by river, to reach 20 million commuter and tourist trips a year: this is a more challenging area, with passenger trips dipping slightly through 2017/2018, due to security concerns and the Woolwich ferry service suspension as new boats were brought into service. However, new piers are opening alongside the arrival of new vessels, networks are expanding and the prediction is for growth.

A riverside which is a magnet for ramblers, historians, artists and others: it is unusual for a port to take this interest in cultural aspects but, as Alistair Gale says: “Connecting more people with the Thames is important – prompting people to go to the banks and enjoy and appreciate the river can make them feel more engaged and therefore keen to look after it more.” The PLA is now one of the main sponsors of the Totally Thames festival, which brings people together to celebrate the river.

Greater participation in sport and recreation on and alongside the river: a sports participation study identified a strong baseline of activity and opportunities for increasing participation in the future. The PLA is working with national governing bodies and a number of sports clubs in order to boost participation. More visitor mooring information has been provided on the website, a missing link in the Thames Path has been opened between Charlton and Woolwich, and Tideway has launched an annual Foreshore Festival, giving everyone the chance to try out river-based recreational activities at Putney and Shadwell.

The cleanest River Thames since the Industrial Revolution, with improved habitats and awareness of heritage: initiatives here have included the launch of the Thames Litter Strategy, the setting of baselines and calculation of capital for biodiversity, invasive species and gaps in habitat, the launch of the Air Quality
Strategy, investment in the UK’s first hybrid pilot cutter, and the ‘Green Tariff’ discount now being doubled, to
encourage cleaner, greener shipping into the Port of London.

Lighting up

The Illuminated River project will incorporate 15 bridges from Albert Bridge to Tower Bridge. The first phase of what will be the longest public art commission in the world is due for completion in 2019, when the first bridge will be switched on.

Volumes up

The Port of London handled over  53 million tonnes of cargo in 2018. That cargo is vital to the daily lives of millions of people. The huge variety of cargoes handled across 70 terminals and wharves on the tidal Thames means it is difficult to find something that is NOT passing over the quaysides. London handles oil, fuel, chemicals, cars, engines, machinery, vegetable oil, sugar, wine, fresh produce, cocoa, coffee, paper and forest products, cement, steel, construction materials, grain, animal feed, clothes, consumer goods, waste and recyclates.

Pilots up

The PLA now has a total of 102 pilots: 82 sea pilots, 16 river pilots and four trainees. This follows recruitment of 12 pilots a year for the past two years – another 12 will be recruited in 2019.

Extract from the Port of London Handbook 2019

 

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