Monday, February 6, 2017

Port of London Sees Increased Container Freight and Oil Trade

All Sectors Moving More Tonnage as Deep Water Port Expands
Shipping News Feature
UK – It has been many a long day since the Port of London was the world’s premier trading centre, with ranks of ships queuing in the Thames estuary waiting for a berth. A decade or so ago it seemed those glory days had gone forever but business has ticked over with the principal tonnages arising from the oil cargoes travelling to Essex and Kent refineries, as opposed to produce, timber and machinery formerly carried as freight. Now it seems things are steadily improving commercially for London’s River as 2016 saw a throughput of over 50 million tonnes, up 10% and the highest in this decade.

The Port of London Authority (PLA) says the strong performance reflects continued growth at terminals along the Thames. The volumes of oil, containers and building materials all rose markedly. Prior to 2016, port throughput had been increasing at between 2-3%, year-on-year. An increase in containerised cargo can be expected as DP World’s London Gateway deep water port continues to take business, the convenience of the Essex location and the expanding logistics park representing a better and more economical alternative to many importers and exporters in the busy south east location.

The new port also benefits from its sheltered location, with improved operational resilience in bad weather over some other competitors and testing of facilities on Berth Three at the deep-sea port also started at the end of 2016. Last year also saw the first cargoes delivered to the Thames Oil Port, the former Coryton oil refinery site now redeveloped as a fuel terminal. At the Port of Tilbury, a new chilled store for NFT was opened and the acquisition of land for port expansion was completed.

The overall tonnage of cargo handled at terminals on the Thames last year was 50.4 million tonnes, five million tonnes (or 11%) up on 2015. Growth was principally in oil trades which rose by 22% from 10.9 million tonnes in 2015 to 13.3 million tonnes in 2016. Containers and trailers (unitised traffic) was up 7% to 18 million tonnes; aggregates and cement increased again from 10.7 million tonnes (16%) up to 12.4 million tonnes. Cereal volumes also increased by 15% to one million tonnes.

The Port of London has changed somewhat since the Royal Docks and the Pool of London were the centres of commercial activity. The increase in land values toward the city and the creeping expansion of the metropolis meant the construction of Tilbury Docks in the 1960’s and a move away from the host of wharves, big and small, which dotted the riverside. Now the Port consists of over 70 independently owned and operated terminals and port facilities at different locations on the Thames, handling a vast range of cargoes.

Photo: The Steam tug Brent in harness with a sister vessel pulling barges of timber across the river.