Friday, July 15, 2016

Container Freight and Logistics Park Help Regenerate the River Thames

Port of London Plans Have Environmental Considerations as a Priority
Shipping News Feature
UK – For those who have resided on, or close to, the River Thames, there is much to celebrate of late. After decades of misuse and a plunge in fortunes from the busy, working waterway of sixty or so years ago, and pollution levels sometimes reaching horrifying proportions, the future is now much brighter, the river much cleaner, as evidenced by the return and abundance of wildlife and the resurgence of commercial traffic which is increasing year on year. A new deep water container freight port and logistics park has sprung up downstream of the busy Tilbury Docks which in turn replaced the original Royal Docks complex after the heydays of the last century.

These advances have not of course come about accidentally, there are several programmes and policies which are bringing about major changes spearheaded by the Port of London Authority (PLA), Transport for London (TfL) and the Greater London Authority (GLA) under direction from the Mayor’s office itself, and this month saw the formal launch of ‘Thames Vison’ which outlines the development of the tidal Thames for the next twenty years. The Thames Vision Goals are, in full:

  • The busiest ever Port of London, handling 60 – 80 million tonnes of cargo a year
  • More goods and materials routinely moved between wharves on the river, every year over four million tonnes carried by water, taking over 400,000 lorry trips off the region’s roads
  • Double the number of people travelling by river, reaching 20 million commuter and tourist trips every year
  • Greater participation in sport and recreation on and alongside the water
  • The river, the cleanest since the Industrial Revolution, with improved habitats and awareness of heritage
  • A riverside which is a magnet for ramblers, historians, artists and others, whether living nearby, on the river or travelling from further afield

The difficulty is of course marrying the demands of commerce with the environmental essentials demanded and those tasked with achieving this have gone about their business with alacrity over the past 18 months. The project was described thus by London’s new Deputy Mayor for Transport, Val Shawcross, at the launch:

“This blueprint for the future of the Thames can make an important contribution to the Mayor’s aim of encouraging greater use of the river for the transport of passengers and freight. There has been a significant increase in river passengers but we will be looking at what else can be done to increase those numbers. We want everyone with a stake in the Thames to come together and help guarantee the success of this vital waterway. More river use will mean more skilled jobs for young people, this Vision is about them as an integral part of London’s future.”

Actions already underway include the recruitment of additional PLA pilots to meet growing customer demand; the Thames Skills Academy taking on its first group of students; work on Thames Tideway Tunnel starting in earnest; and a study into the levels of participation in sports on the river and its banks. Now the Vision is working in conjunction with the new Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission which was announced in the March 2016 budget.

The Commission is charged with developing its own vision and delivery plan for North Kent, South Essex and East London, reporting back for the Autumn Budget Statement in 2017, with a clear and affordable strategy to achieve its objectives. It will look at how the area can develop, attract and retain skilled workers, making the most of opportunities from planned infrastructure investment, including the Lower Thames Crossing.

A consultancy document, which you can access here, is calling for ideas and will run until 9 September 2016, following which these concepts will be presented to the new Chancellor of the Exchequer prior to the 2017 Autumn Budget Statement. Chair of the new body is Lord Heseltine, who with other members of the Commission took to the Thames recently aboard an MBNA Thames Clippers fast ferry for their first fact-finding trip, along with stake holding representatives from Tate & Lyle, Ford, the Port of Tilbury, London Gateway Port, the RSPB and housing group Peabody amongst others.

The group were hosted on the river by the PLA and travelled the Thames from Tower Pier through East London as far downriver as London Gateway Port and Thames Oilport in Essex. On board during the 30-plus mile trip they were briefed on river uses, ranging from port trade and passenger travel to riverside housing developments and habitat creation. Speaking at the time Robin Mortimer, PLA chief executive, said:

“There is a renewed focus on the Thames as a catalyst for growth over the coming decades. This trip was a great opportunity to share with the commissioners the Vision for the Thames that we shaped with stakeholders over the last 18 months. We hope that the Vision will give the Commission a ready reference for the potential growth in use of the Thames and what needs to be done to unlock it.”

One sign of regrowth is the continued growth in demand in London for repair and maintenance facilities for both passenger craft and freight by water transportation as extensive investment is being made in London's river pier network, alongside significant infrastructure projects which are either planned or have commenced. The Mayor’s River Action Plan identifies the need for strategic boatyard facilities to sustain growth of London’s leisure and working craft operating on the Thames and states that TfL and the GLA are working with the river industry to create a new boatyard facility on the Thames in London by 2018 to ensure adequate capacity for the maintenance of boats and piers.

Anita Bradshaw, Chief Operating Officer, House of Santon Maritime Group which specialises in the design and implementation of marine design projects such as marinas, shipyards etc. and also Chair of the National Maritime whose Development Group (NDMG) will speak at the NDMG’s next business breakfast for Marine Engineering & Manufacturers on 28 July 2016 to explore how commercial boatyards and ancillary marine related services on the Thames are integral to the transport network in the Capital and supporting the growth of commercial operators. Ticket details for this event, which is open to non NMDG Partners, can be seen here.

Photo: The Pool of London circa 1950.