Friday, March 11, 2016

Days of Glory Returning to the River Thames as Container Numbers and Freight Tonnages Rise

Passenger Growth Helps Bring More Work to Ports and Terminals
Shipping News Feature
UK – It is many years since London was the busiest port in the world with lighters so tightly moored one could cross the Pool of London adjacent to Tower Bridge simply by jumping from one to the next in order to reach the far bank of the Thames. In the days pre-containerisation all import freight travelled upriver to be transhipped, usually into the barges alongside or off at the quayside for collection by whatever means was available at the time. Meanwhile exports produced vast incomes until the trade withered and died or transferred elsewhere to other ports on the coast.

Now however it seems that the trend is gradually reversing as the Port of London continues to see larger ships than ever calling, with last year the tonnage of cargo handled at Thames terminals climbing to 45.4 million tonnes (up 2% on 2014). Growth was principally in containers and trailers, up 4% to 16.9 million tonnes; aggregates and cement increased again as construction continued to recover from 9.7 million tonnes (11%) up to 10.7 million tonnes. Oil trades fell, somewhat predictably, by 8% to 10.9 million tonnes, with volumes particularly low at the beginning of year.

At the Port of Tilbury, P&O Ferries passed a milestone, handling its one millionth freight unit at the port and the port handled over 40 million bricks. Freight aside, a record 100,000 passengers passed through the London International Cruise Terminal. But the place likely to prove a game changer is DP World’s deep water facility at London Gateway.

Development of the third berth continues as increasing numbers of ultra large container ships continue to call, benefitting from the port’s ability to continue operating even in high winds compared to its main rival locations. Few people are better placed to comment on the rise of the capital than Port of London Chief Executive, Robin Mortimer who comments:

“Last year a number of operators introduced new, bigger ships and records were broken. The record breakers included container ship, UASC Barzan and cruise ship Viking Star. The 400 metre long Barzan set a new benchmark as the biggest-ever ship on the Thames when she called at London Gateway Port in September. Viking Star became the largest-ever cruise ship in central London when she called at our Greenwich cruise ship moorings on her inaugural trip in May.

“Since August, the Port of Tilbury has welcomed over 20 calls from Grimaldi’s new-generation, larger capacity con-ro ships, operating on routes between Europe and West Africa. Longer and wider than their predecessors, they are handled at Tilbury’s new landing stage berth, rather than in the docks. And the Thames’ busiest service operator, CLdN has much larger, ‘game changer’, ships being built as well.

“It’s developments like these, combined with the planned £1 billion of investment by Thames terminals and operators over the next five years, that give us confidence in the future. The Thames Vision project, looking at how the Thames will develop over the next two decades has set a goal of port trade growing to over 60 million tonnes.”