Categories: London, News, Port of London AuthorityPublished On: 02.12.2020564 words2.8 min read

The Port of London Authority’s operations cover 95 miles of the River Thames – and they play a crucial role in the many areas from commercial and leisure, to economic growth and sustainability. We recently spoke to them about their work and the exciting opportunities that can be unlocked across London’s Ports.
Q. The move to containerisation had a major impact on London’s Docklands, causing large swathes of former docklands such as Canary Wharf to be transformed into commercial property and a move downstream, how has this transformed the role of London’s ports?
Port operations on the Thames continue to be part of the supply chains keeping people across London and the South East supplied with food, fuel, medicines and other essentials.  They are also a central route for UK manufactured goods to be exported.

This key role is underlined by the continuing private investment in large terminals and warehousing in the Port of London.  The new Tilbury2 port provides enhanced links for trade with Europe and the DP World London Gateway container port continues to attract new services.  Earlier this year they handled the largest container ship in the world, HMM Algerciras.  The capacity for scale movements and increased automation has increased the efficiency of shipping and supported the competitiveness of the port.
Port of London terminals handled over 54 million tonnes of cargo in 2019, making it the second largest port in the UK and the largest in the south of the country, growing 20% over the past five years compared to an overall 3% fall in the tonnage handled by all UK major ports.  Additionally, DfT statistics showed that the Port of London was once again the largest port in the UK in the first half of this this year.
Q. How vital is Thames in the movement of goods intra-city and what opportunities does it present for logistics?
The Thames is the UK’s busiest inland waterway for freight.  It is an essential, low carbon, part of London’s transport mix, traditionally handling construction materials and waste movements.  Some 4.8 million tonnes of materials were moved by river last year keeping a quarter of million lorry loads off London’s congested roads.
The use of the river for moving freight is backed by a Mayoral policy which safeguards key sites for cargo handling.  In recent years we have invested £10m in returning the safeguarded Peruvian Wharf in East London to operations.  The adjacent Royal Primrose Wharf has also been acquired for reactivation, forming part of a wider marine/industrial hub.
These investments back the scope to accommodate more heavy freight, linking consolidation centres and aggregate terminals in the east to central London, as well as to develop more small-scale freight movements for last mile deliveries, serving changing patterns of demand.  An example is the recent launch of the DHL parcel river service from Wandsworth to Bankside Pier.
Q. There are discussions about the institution of a freeport for London post-Brexit, what are the authority’s thoughts on the subject?
A compelling Thames bid is being developed by Forth Ports and DP World London Gateway.  This will meet key selection criteria, including: opportunities for levelling up deprived communities’ chances; catalysing centres of investment; and innovation in low carbon technology.
Q. How does the Port of London Authority help support the Thames Estuary economy? . . . . 
. . . continue reading the article on the Built Environment Networking website here