Categories: Business, Forth Ports, London, Port of London Authority, TilburyPublished On: 31.03.20192406 words12.1 min read

Screenshot 2019-03-21 at 09.20.21

The Port of Tilbury’s expansion will provide vital extra resilience to the UK’s port infrastructure.

Bigger, bolder, even broader in scope: it might be hard to see how Tilbury, already recognised as one of the UK’s most multipurpose, flexible and successful ports can improve on itself.

The answer is twofold: expand into a 152-acre site next door to the port, and continue to create and grow dynamic supply chain solutions within the existing port boundaries. Pumice and carbon dioxide are two ‘new arrivals’ at the port in the past year, and cargoes such as roll-on/roll-off, grain, paper, forest productsand recyclable glass – to name just a few – continue to grow year on year.

Tilbury2, to be built on former Tilbury Power Station land, is well on its way. In November 2018, the Planning Inspectorateconfirmed that Forth Ports Group’s application for a development consent order (DCO) had been passed to the Secretary of State. A final decision is expected early in 2019.

Ecology site clearance work accelerated in 2018, detailed design work has continued, and a construction contract has been agreed. In other words, once the plans are approved, Tilbury is ready to press the button. Tilbury2 is expected to be ready for work in the first half of 2020.

“We could start work as early as April 2019; we have started some of the authorised pre-works already and are doing as much as we can in advance,” says Peter Ward, commercial director of the Port of Tilbury.

The new development will operate as a satellite of the present port, he says.
Tilbury’s AEO trusted trader status will apply to Tilbury2. Crucially, in the light of Brexit, it will provide significant new capacity for unaccompanied roll-on/roll-off trailers in the South East, with direct access to the market.

“Tilbury2 will add extra resilience to the UK’s port infrastructure. The ro-ro terminal will provide a linkspan bridge into the river, with a pontoon to handle larger ferries, two at a time. It will provide 50 acres for trailers and containers.”

Meanwhile, in the northern part of the site, a construction materials aggregate terminal will be built. The berth at Tilbury2 will be dredged to 15 metres, so that very large self-discharging aggregate ships can be handled. A state-of-the-art conveyor system will move the materials to the north, for stockpiling and production of block paving, asphalt and ready-mix concrete.

Heads of terms agreements have already been signed with the two key customers. The plans feature new rail links and road connections, with a bridge extension to provide easy access to the new port area.

The DCO provides for an upgrade to the roundabout close to the main port to improve traffic flows and the port will be spending significant sums locally on upgrading footpaths, cycleways and the historic Tilbury Fort. Investment will go into heritage projects across the water in Gravesend and in electronic information boards for the Tilbury-Gravesend foot ferry – a well-used service for people travelling to and from work.

The port has an excellent record of ecological mitigation works, particularly in relation to the development of London Distribution Park. Recently it has constructed a nine-acre water vole park; a badger sett is also being built on the Tilbury2 site. Tilbury2 will deliver the UK’s largest unaccompanied ferry terminal and Britain’s largest construction hub to market in 2020.

The Port of Tilbury is forecasting a doubling of volumes across its quays over the next ten to 15 years. “With the development of Tilbury2, we will be one of the biggest employers in Thurrock, directly and indirectly,” says Port of Tilbury asset and site director Paul Dale. “We expect direct jobs to increase from 8,500 to 11,000 after Tilbury2.”

Happy anniversary to the grain terminal!

In June 2019, Tilbury Grain Terminal reaches its half-century – and what better way to celebrate that landmark than with a new extension? A 16,000 tonnes capacity, automatic fill flat store extension, now being built, will increase the terminal’s total storage capacity to 136,000 tonnes.

“This is very much to cater for our import business supplying the UK flour milling industry,” says Peter Ward. “Business is still as strong 50 years on, supporting the import/export of grain commodities.”

With the capacity to handle up to two million tonnes a year, Tilbury Grain Terminal is one of the largest grain
terminals in the UK. In the past 25 years, a total of 35 million tonnes has been handled through the terminal. More than 200 silos, ranging from 60 to 120 tonnes, provide the flexibility and capacity to handle numerous different types and grades of grains – including wheat, barley and human consumption beans and soya beans.

The terminal handles deepsea and coastal vessels; it has the capacity to support both imports and exports, to and from destinations all around the world. Import volumes are particularly strong from Europe (France, Germany and Italy), the United States and Canada.

“From Tilbury we support the milling/baking and ingredient market for the South East, London and as far as the Midlands,” says Peter Ward. “In addition, a monthly coastal vessel takes product up the east coast to Kirkcaldy in Scotland.”

Paper and forest products

Tilbury remains the UK’s top port for paper and forest products, handling and adding value to more than one million tonnes of products in this sector every year. The port has an enviable reputation for quality, expertise and providing tailored solutions to support customers.

Customers can benefit from some very specialised paper-handling facilities…

n The London Paper Terminal, opened in 1999, celebrates 20 years of operations in 2019. Previously called the Finnish Terminal, the facility has been used by UPM since day one for handling and storage of its commodities. Based on a 36-acre site, the terminal provides 700,000 square feet of covered storage and 115,000 square feet of operational canopies. Products handled include newsprint, magazine print, packaging materials and palletised fine papers, totalling around half a million tonnes a year. Alongside these cargoes, the terminal makes the most of its expertise and capacity to handle bricks, timber, plant and equipment and specialised cargoes.

There has been significant investment in new bespoke handling equipment to ensure the terminal continues to be a technology leader.

n The Enterprise Distribution Centre was designed and built specifically for Stora Enso; based on a 25-acre site with 350,000 square feet of storage, it includes a unique high-bay warehouse with 29,000 storage bays and handles about 600,000 tonnes a year. Recent investment has
provided a haulage portal and VBS (vehicle booking system) for optimising delivery slots and providing visibility to the customer for just-in-time deliveries.

The EDC is served by Finnlines’ connections to Scandinavia, Russia and Spain, and Swedish Orient Lines’
connections to Scandinavia, Zeebrugge and the Arctic Circle.

n Stanton Grove provides third party logistics (3PL) services to the paper and forest products industry and works closely with the Port of Tilbury.

n Transfennica runs roll-on/roll-off services connecting London Paper Terminal with Belgium, Scandinavia, Estonia, Russia and Poland.

Recycling centre

Glass, wood, metal, general waste: Tilbury is the top port in the UK for handling recyclables.

Tilbury Green Power uses about 270,000 tonnes a year of waste wood sourced from the region to produce up to 319,000 MW of renewable electricity a year, enough to meet the demand of about 97,000 homes.

TGP’s £175 million investment in this project created about 420 jobs during construction and up to 50 people are now employed in operating the plant.

And there’s more to come. Plans have been submitted for phase two of TGP – a 20 MW power plant which will burn baled waste brought to the port.

URM Glass opened its multi-million- pound glass sorting plant in Tilbury two years ago. Glass is brought to the facility from materials recycling centres across London and the South East – it includes bottle bank glass, windscreen and industrial glasses, and pre-process and post-process glass.

At the port, a high-tech process sorts the glass into colours and the glass is crushed. Some is exported by sea to Portugal, but the larger volume is loaded to trains by Port of Tilbury stevedores to be transported to Cheshire, to one of the largest glass manufacturing facilities in Europe.

The bulk rail terminal built by the port for this project and others has secured new traffic flows and is being expanded again. Forth Ports has invested in new infrastructure, including a mobile crane, supporting equipment, a bespoke storage area and system upgrades. The terminal, which has a direct connection to the national rail network, enables side-loading rates of 300 tonnes per hour and also handles aggregates for FM Conway and green glass for OI Glass.

Biffa is the port’s third recyclable glass customer; glass is sorted and cleaned before being delivered to Tilbury for export.

Alongside all of this, Tilbury also handles very large volumes of scrap metal via EMR, woodchip and RDF (refuse derived fuel).

Food and drink

The Port of Tilbury is an important hub for many of the foods and drinks we take for granted. Coffee and cocoa, chilled and frozen products, grains for baking and pasta production, beer, wine, fresh fruit – the list continues.

NFT operates one of the largest on-dock chill stores in Europe. Holding up to 25,000 pallets across 250,000 square feet of warehousing space, the facility has multi-temperature capacity and allows for cross-docking chilled and ambient cargo.

Browns Food Group has an 8,000 pallet warehouse for chilled, frozen and deep-chill cargo; it also provides for cross-docking, as well as unloading overweight containers, relabelling, repalletising and rewrapping.

Services into London Container Terminal and those operated by P&O Ferries bring a wide range of products as part of hundreds of just-in-time supply chains into shops and supermarkets. Howard Tenens provides warehousing and logistics for beer imports, and London City Bond provides bonded and specialist storage for wine and other drinks.

And still there’s more . . . . .

Tilbury has always been a multipurpose, multifunctional specialist. And that means the port is constantly welcoming new cargoes and setting up new, bespoke supply chain solutions for a range of customers.

Trial shipments of pumice stone began in 2018, and regular shipments are now confirmed for 2019 onwards. The pumice, shipped from the volcanic Greek island of Yali, is used to manufacture lightweight building blocks for the construction industry.

Tilbury has also secured its first liquid bulk customer. Nippon Gasses is now regularly importing carbon dioxide, and in 2019 it will open a purpose-built facility with specialised storage tanks on the quayside. The CO2 is in demand for a wide range of uses, including for beer pumps, abattoirs, refilling refrigerated transport units, producing carbonated drinks and beer, and even injecting the bubbles into crumpets!


Ro-ro services form another important part of Tilbury’s connections, providing true global connections. P&O Ferries operates up to ten departures each way, each week, on its highly successful Tilbury-Zeebrugge freight service, and its volumes continue to break records.

P&O is preparing to move to a purpose-built river berth within the Tilbury2 development – a move which will treble its freight capacity on this key route to 500,000 units a year. The ferry operator has said it expects the new capacity to provide an unrivalled service for anyone exporting to or from London and the South East.

Tilbury is also an important hub for deepsea ro-ro services, with regular service calls by Grimaldi connecting to South America and West Africa, by Bahri Shipping connecting to the Middle East, India, the US and Canada, and by Hyundai’s state-of-the-art car carriers, which call at a dedicated riverside berth linked to a secure vehicle storage and handling centre. The river berth can accommodate post-panamax vessels with beam exceeding 35 metres.

In dock, the port regularly handles combi-ships and heavy lift vessels, providing facilities for the loading/
unloading of second-hand vehicles and wheeled, tracked and agricultural plant and other machinery.

Construction materials

The Port of Tilbury is a key hub for bricks, steel, timber and aggregates, and plays a proactive role in encouraging and enabling consolidation and barging, making use of the river for onward deliveries into London.

Ever since the building of Canary Wharf, Tilbury has played a key role in construction projects in London and as a consolidation hub for the construction and infrastructure sector.

“Items such as bricks, pipes, steel, timber, aggregates and waste are being handled by river to support residential and industrial developments,” says Peter Ward. “There is so much potential to make even more use of the river, in line with the Mayor of London’s drive to reduce HGV traffic on the city’s roads. We have
handled a variety of specialist items barged from Tilbury, including tunnel
boring machines, bridges sections, temporary office buildings and even the Olympic rings of 2012.

“The opportunities for the future are endless – for the construction market but also for other sectors – to support
deliveries by river, including for e-commerce, the food and drink sector and even parcels. We also handle waste and scrap metal transported downriver by barge.”

The Tideway ‘giant sewer’ project has also highlighted what can be achieved at Tilbury. Cargoes consolidated and handled at Tilbury and moved by river have included portable cabins/offices, spoil, piles and steel, while large pontoons,flat-top barges and jack-up barges have been stored within the port.

Other river-related construction projects served from Tilbury have included Crossrail and the Battersea Power Station development.

London Container Terminal

Tilbury’s London Container Terminal (LCT) handles both shortsea and deepsea services and is one of the UK’s largest container terminals.

A new rail service was introduced in 2018, linking the terminal with the Midlands and Central Scotland. Operated in collaboration with Stobart Rail, DRS, JF Hillebrand and Samskip, the first service departed at the beginning of September.

Initially it will run three times a week to Daventry, and on to Scotland twice a week; the service is expected to increase to a daily frequency as demand grows. Tilbury also hopes to see a rail link to Liverpool established in 2019.

A new Moroccan service operated by Sealand was added to LCT’s connections in 2018. “The year also saw us supporting the sector with the diversion of vessels from other UK ports,” says Paul Dale. “This has shown that we are a flexible terminal – we have diverse capabilities, capacity and the systems to handle change, and we are keen to ensure we are supporting our customers and their onward supply chains through our excellent service provision and efficient and reliable landside operations.”

 Extract from the Port of London Handbook 2019 (published by Compass Publications Ltd)