Monday, February 15, 2021

River Thames Looking to Regain Lost Ground with New Shipping Services and Ambitious Plans

London Docks Aiming for a Modern Look
Shipping News Feature

UK – It seems the River Thames is getting back towards past glories when it comes to the water borne carriage of freight. This week more news that tonnages are increasing, and the potential for future trade is growing.

Admittedly a London docker of the past would not recognise the giant container cranes and straddle carriers which move the intermodal tonnages so efficiently, but it seems the weather sheltered quay of DP World’s London Gateway deep water port is still steadily picking up business.

Gateway is now the UK port of call for Sealand-Maersk’s North Sea service, which connects the key economies of Northern Europe with the Eastern Mediterranean. Previously calling at the Suffolk coast, this major international shipping service has a 42-day rotation stretching from Western Europe to Cyprus, Egypt and Israel. The appeal of the river site’s ability to work through inclement weather as compared with the Felixstowe region may have been a factor.

The port rotation for the new service after London Gateway are calls at Rotterdam, Bremerhaven, Wilhelmshaven, Hamburg, Antwerp, Limassol, Ashdod, Alexandria, Haifa, Mersin, and finally at Port Said East before returning to London.

Last month the link between Unifeeder, which already calls at London Gateway, and the port were strengthened further with the addition of the company’s new St Petersburg service. Unifeeder has introduced an additional loop connecting the Benelux and Russian markets with Britain. London Gateway says it is the preferred import hub because of its proximity to the capital’s consumer market, cynics might of course suggest that both companies are part of the DP World portfolio.

What is certain is that the appetite for more and better multimodal connections plays a part and the new service has fixed day weekly connections on a rotation from London to Antwerp, St Petersburg, Bremerhaven and then back to London, offering connectivity with the entire Unifeeder network with multiple transhipment options. Ernst Schulze, CEO of DP World in the UK, said:

“We are delighted to welcome two new services to the most technologically advanced and fastest growing container port in the UK. We have the capacity to continue to prioritise delivering first class services for all existing customers at the same time as handling new sailings which expand customer choice.”

The River Thames news does not end there however with more flesh added to the bone as regards the proposed Thames Freeport, a project in which again DP World has no little share. The Dubai headquartered group is, together with Forth Ports, bidding for the Freeport with London Gateway, the Port of Tilbury and Ford’s Dagenham engine plant and the Thames Enterprise Park (TEP) at its heart.

We have listed previously the environmental and financial benefits claimed for the project if the bid is successful, with the promise of 25,000+ jobs and the backers pointing out their individual experience, DP World’s Jebel Ali began as a free trade zone and Tilbury was a Freeport until 2012. Now Dr Graham Hoare OBE, Ford of Britain Chairman says:

"As part of Thames Freeport, we expect to develop Dagenham as a technology spoke for electrified, zero-emission and autonomous technologies.”

Julie Tankard, CFO at the Port of London Authority said the consortium creates a striking investment proposition and a compelling package, while Christian Brodie, Chair of the South East Local Enterprise partnership commented:

“The Thames Freeport is such an exciting proposition and speaks to the priorities we have recognised in our forthcoming Recovery and Renewal Strategy. A Freeport in this area will play a critical role in levelling up deprived communities, boosting the skills of the local workforce, providing local opportunities in areas that have experienced long-term unemployment and deprivation.

“The Thames Freeport will act as a coastal catalyst, leveraging trade links into our area and will provide a platform for collaboration on major innovation challenges such as hydrogen, automation and the circular economy.”