Moving freight by water on the River Thames
Transport of London's waste on the River Thames saves thousands of lorry movements each year
The River Thames is the busiest inland waterway in the United Kingdom, carrying nearly 60% of all goods lifted on the UK's inland waterway network. Latest Department for Transport statistics (2010) show over two million tonnes of freight were transported on the Thames, up over 13% on the year before. This helps keep over 100,000 lorry movements a year off London's congested roads.
Use of the river for moving freight is set to expand with major new contracts agreed for the transport by water of waste and aggregates to the Olympic site, two new lighterage companies starting operations and expansion of existing operators. We are currently working with operators on over twenty more new projects to move cargoes to and from wharves within Greater London. These include construction materials, soils, fuel, containers, cars and recyclates. Click here for more information.
We support this important use of the river through our expert staff including three who work full time advising operators on the development of river freight transport projects and associated land development issues. Our harbourmasters spend a significant time assessing the operational and safety aspects of proposed services.
Scrap metal for recycling is loaded at Pinns Wharf
Over the next ten years our team will help facilitate the safe riverborne movement of over 16 million tonnes of spoil from tunnelling and development projects within London. No port dues are payable to the PLA on this activity.
We work very closely on these projects with vessel and terminal operators, the Thames Gateway Executive, the Greater London Authority, Local Planning Authorities and many other organisations.
We strongly supported the "safeguarded wharves" policy of the current and previous Mayors, which protects 50 wharves within Greater London. This has involved spending considerable time and money reactivating unused wharves and financially underwriting a compulsory purchase order.
To make the most of the river's potential for moving goods and people there needs to be a more efficient process for reactivating safeguarded wharves where they are held in property developers' land banks and effectively withdrawn from the market.
There is continued potential for further growth in freight and passenger traffic on the River Thames. We will continue to help people make the most of this potential, ensuring that the any plans can safely be accommodated on the already busy river.
Recent studies have shown that movement of freight by water is better for the environment. This graph compares the CO2 emissions produced by the four main methods of transport - water, rail, road and air:
Click here to view our picture gallery of freight movements by river