Our website uses cookies so that we can provide a better service. Continue to use the site as normal if you're happy with this, or find out how to manage cookies.


Port of London Trade down 6% in first six months

Ships on the Thames in July 2012 (click on image to enlarge)
Ships on the Thames in July 2012 
(click on image to enlarge)

The Port of London Authority (PLA) says that trade through the Port of London in the first six months of 2012 was down by 1.664 million tonnes (6.85%), compared to the same period last year.

Trade has been dramatically affected by the difficulties at the Coryton oil refinery.  Crude oil tonnages were down by almost a million tonnes (28.13%) as production at the refinery was patchy from the beginning of the year, through to the announcement of closure in May. A total of 8.32 million tonnes of crude oil and oil products was handled at the terminals in  the port between January and the end of June. 

Tonnages of unitised cargo (containers and roll-on/roll-off units) were flat at 7.266 million tonnes, as were forest products at 582,000 tonnes.  Aggregates cargoes were down by 366,000 tonnes (9.51%) to 3.480 million tonnes. 

“Overall we have had a very difficult start to the year on port trade,” explained PLA chief executive, Richard Everitt.  “The Coryton refinery was the biggest single customer of the PLA, handling in excess of eight million tonnes of oil and refined products a year.  Its closure is a big blow  for a port with annual throughput last year of 48 million tonnes. 

“News of the Vopak, Greenergy and Shell plans to develop an oil products import terminal on the site are therefore very welcome.  Over the next few months we will support the development of their terminal plans, and the other operations developing or consolidating on the river.  Inevitably in the meantime we have to reduce our costs and look at operational efficiencies as we adapt to lower levels of income.”

Developments underway on the Thames include the London Gateway container port which is expected to welcome its first vessels towards the end of next year.  The PLA is providing support to the channel deepening operation for the project, with pilots for dredgers and hydrographic surveying.  Its pilotage team is also modelling the handling of the largest container ships ready for the terminal opening.

Operational improvements in hand at the PLA include the construction of a £6 million Mooring Maintenance Vessel (MMV), the organisation’s biggest single investment in over 20 years.  The new vessel, being built by Manor Marine in Portland, Dorset will replace the PLA’s two salvage ships, Crossness and Hookness, which have been in operation on the Thames for over 40 years. 

Richard Everitt continued:

“The situation at Coryton underlines the importance of the work we are doing to make sure that we have the most efficient operation possible, supporting a vibrant and safe river.  The investment in the new MMV is a key part of this as it will improve our efficiency keeping the river channels clear and properly marked which is fundamental to safety on the Thames.”

Port of London Trade: First half 2011 and first half 2012

Cargo (million tonnes)

H1 2011

H1 2012

Oil, crude & products



Containers & trailers






Other cargo, incl sugar



Forest products






Metals & ores