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One Million Tonne Thames Shipment Increase

A commercial vessel in central London
A commercial vessel in central London
(Click on image to enlarge)

The tonnage of material being moved between terminals and jetties on the tidal river Thames leapt by more than a million tonnes in 2012.

3.3 million tonnes of materials, including vegetable oil, sand, gravel, tunnelling spoil and household waste, was moved by river in 2012, up from two million tonnes the year before.  Thames Water’s Lea Tunnel project was a major factor in this growth.  So far, the project has generated over 850,000 tonnes material movements at wharves in the boroughs of Newham, Dagenham and Greenwich and has seen the use of Bow Creek return to levels last seen in the 1960s.

“The increase in movement of materials last year is just the start to this ‘river renaissance’,” says PLA’s head of planning and partnerships, James Trimmer.  “This year will see Crossrail’s use of the river start in earnest.  They have committed to moving more than four  million tonnes of tunnelling spoil by river from East London to Wallasea Island, where RSPB is creating a nature reserve and the segments that the will form the tunnel lining will arrive from Chatham to east London by barge.  And in a few years’ time Thames Water’s use of the river will grow further when its Thames Tideway Tunnel scheme gets underway.

“This increased river use matters to Londoners.  It’s something we have worked on with the Mayor’s Office, the Greater London Authority and Transport for London, making sure for example that wharves, the essential ‘slip road’ onto our marine superhighway are safeguarded for port use.  Every 1,000 tonne barge slipping quietly down the Thames keeps 40 lorries off our roads, cutting congestion, pollution and improving safety in residential communities.”

Operational wharves handling London’s intraport trade run the length of the river from Gravesend in the east to Wandsworth in the west, with Tower Hamlets, the City and many others in between.        

The increasing use of the river is prompting new companies, such as Brentwood-based S Walsh, to start river operations bringing new tugs and barges to the river.  Training for new skippers and deckhands is also being improved, with a group of river operators and senior officials connected to the river Thames founding the Thames Training Alliance.  This will give new entrants into the resurgent industry a clear, structured career across both freight and passenger operations.