Port of Tilbury: making an impact

The Port of Tilbury continues to expand its role as an intermodal hub supporting London and the South East.

Let us set the scene: the Port of Tilbury is already recognised as a leading distribution hub for both London and the South East. It already holds the number one position on some very key commodities, including grain, foodstuffs, construction materials, paper, forest products and waste/recyclables.

Describing Tilbury simply as ‘a port’ really doesn’t do justice to this dynamic and diverse operation

Describing Tilbury simply as ‘a port’ really doesn’t do justice to this dynamic and diverse operation. To borrow a wellknown phrase, ‘this is no ordinary port’, Tilbury is a multi-functional, intermodal distribution hub. It is continuing to expand successfully through a programme of significant investment under Forth Ports’ ownership. And the future looks even more exciting, with a number of major new developments.

Port of Tlbury shippingThe number one UK port for many trades.

“London is spreading eastwards and the Port of Tilbury will have a massive role to play in this, as a shortsea intermodal hub and a construction materials hub,” says Charles Hammond, chief executive of Forth Ports. “The Port of Tilbury is at the heart of Thurrock’s regeneration. We are committed to that regeneration, and to supporting expansion and jobs in Thurrock, to the benefit of the local community.”

The Port of Tilbury is the largest and most multi-talented port on the River Thames. To put things in perspective, the port commissioned an economic impact assessment in 2016, to establish its impact on, and contribution to, the economy at both local and national levels.

Consultants Arup concluded that the Port of Tilbury...

Supports 8,350 jobs, including 810 direct Port of Tilbury jobs;

Contributes £390 million of GVA (gross value added);

Handles cargo worth £8.7 billion a year.

But the study went further, to consider the Port of Tilbury’s wider social and economic impacts for the local area. Those impacts include:

Supporting education opportunities through trustee status, internships, work experience and placements, careers advice and engaging with schools and universities;

Skills and training, through its Logistics Academy, the port provides apprenticeships, traineeships and pre-employment training;

Community support, through business groups, supporting schools and clubs, sponsoring local sports teams, and providing space for use by small companies and local community groups.

In its research, Arup identified that many Tilbury port-related businesses have plans to expand in the short to medium-term, with 88% of Tilbury’s tenants and 65% of its customers saying their plans would require additional capacity at the port.

London container terminal link

Expansion is on the agenda

The port already has 56 operational berths, 31 independent operating terminals and a total 10.2 km of quayside, including deepwater berths outside the locks.

Now it is looking next door. A year ago, Forth Ports acquired a large part of the former Tilbury Power Station site. That has provided an additional 152 acres, along with the site’s deepwater jetties. It’s known as Tilbury 2, but could be renamed as plans develop. The acquisition brings the port’s total footprint to 1,100 acres.

“Tilbury 2 is progressing – we will be applying for planning permission in 2017,” says Peter Ward, Port of Tilbury commercial director. “We are progressing on a number of commercial discussions, including expansion for existing customers and other growth opportunities.”

Meanwhile, an extraordinary development has been taking shape on the port’s London Distribution Park – construction of the largest warehouse ever to be built in the UK. Amazon’s new 2.2 million square foot fulfilment centre, due to open in mid-2017, fills up LDP, along with the existing Travis Perkins’ facility and haulage operations.

This is a vast building, of four floors on a footprint of 550,000 square feet, and Amazon has said it will create more than 1,500 new jobs at the centre.

Charles Hammond says: “Amazon’s decision to base its fulfilment centre at Tilbury is fantastic news for the port and for the Thurrock area. By basing itself at London’s major port, Amazon will save time and money and capitalise on our prime south-east location and excellent, well-established logistical connections to the UK market.”

An extraordinary development has been taking shape on the port’s London Distribution Park (LDP) – construction of the largest warehouse ever to be built in the UK

Peter Ward says: “There will be a fair percentage of goods coming in over our quays for the Amazon centre, underlining the Port of Tilbury’s unrivalled advantages as a distribution hub and port-centric solution.”

Tilbury’s strength has long been in its diversity. The port encompasses one of the UK’s leading container terminals – London Container Terminal, which handles both deepsea and shortsea services. But its expertise stretches way beyond containers to include shortsea and deepsea ro-ro freight services provided by P&O and Grimaldi; new vehicles handled at Hyundai’s import centre with purpose-built in-river berth; paper and forest products; fresh produce, cocoa and coffee; beer and wine; grain, animal feeds and other bulk cargoes; construction materials; and a vast range of recyclables such as scrap, glass, ash, tunnelling spoil and household rubbish.

Working in partnership with S Walsh, the Port of Tilbury has pioneered the London Construction Link (LCL), combining consolidation and waterborne transport on the Thames to support ongoing and planned major infrastructure projects in the capital. LCL has already supported construction work at the former Battersea Power Station site, and is also supporting the Tideway project, with the transport of steel and portable cabins.

And, to add a touch of glamour, the Port of Tilbury is one of the UK’s leading cruise ports.

Port of Tilbury facilities mapPort of Tilbury facilities map

Fruit imports

NFT’s £25 million multi-temperature port-centric distribution centre has been opened, next door to London Container Terminal. During 2016, it was announced that fruit importer Essential Fruits has chosen NFT to provide temperature controlled warehousing and distribution throughout the UK and Europe, taking advantage of the facility.

The centre is designed to store 25,000 pallets within 230,000 square feet, making it one of Europe’s largest temperature- controlled quayside facilities.

‘Waste’ – never wasted

The Port of Tilbury has developed a remarkable range of recycling operations, and is well established as the UK’s largest waste export facility. These activities have continued to grow.

A new multi-million pound waste glass processing plant is being built at the port for URM; raw glass will arrive at the plant in containers, with the finished, processed product being shipped out. The Port of Tilbury is entering a long-term lease with URM to generate volumes both across the quay and in/out of the port via rail.

Meanwhile, the port has a new agreement with Biffa for the export of waste glass through the bulk terminal.


In 2015, a strategic partnership was announced between the port and Frontier Agriculture, the UK’s largest crop inputs and grain marketing business, in which Frontier has taken control of the Port of Tilbury grain terminal.

“The first year of the contract has seen record volumes going through the terminal. It has been a very good export year, particularly for deepsea exports to North Africa,” says Peter Ward. “We loaded one 55,000 tonne vessel during the season.

“We are now making plans to expand the grain terminal, which will potentially give another 16,000 tonnes of storage.”

Green power

The Tilbury Green Power facility, which will use waste wood to generate electricity, is due to be operational in mid 2017. The £190 million plant, being built on the former Cargill site, will generate more than 300 GW of electricity a year, enough to power more than 70,000 homes.


Tilbury already holds the title of the UK’s biggest paper and forest products port, handling more than three million tonnes each year. Now Finnish forest products giant UPM, which already has a long history of shipping through Tilbury, has decided to centralise all of its UK imports from Rauma and Kotka. As a result, from the start of 2017 UPM will be bringing all its UK paper and plywood volumes through the port.

This centralisation of imports will improve supply chain efficiency and bring greater service reliability to customers, UPM has said. A long-term partnership agreement has been set up between UPM, the Port of Tilbury’s London Paper Terminal, and shipping line Transfennica, for two weekly arrivals into the port from the start of 2017.


The Port of Tilbury’s historic London Cruise Terminal continues to see substantial increases in ship calls and passengers, and also continues to benefit from substantial investment.

Major users of the London Cruise Terminal include Cruise & Maritime Voyages and Fred Olsen Cruises, whose vessels departing from Tilbury generally head north to Scandinavia, the Baltic and Russia, or south to the Azores and the Caribbean

Built in the 1930s, the terminal is a Grade II Listed building, famous for being the departure point for thousands of Britons emigrating to Australia and the Commonwealth before the arrival of affordable air travel.

The terminal and its unique floating landing stage are also a familiar site on the screen, having been used as the backdrop for many films and television dramas.

Tilbury cruise terminalMore than 100,000 cruise passengers used the London International Cruise Terminal in 2016.

Forth Ports has invested heavily in the facility in recent years, refurbishing the floating part of the terminal as well as the building and facilities themselves. In the past year, work has included putting a new roof on the old rail terminal and renewing the buoyancy tanks and timbers underneath the second part of the terminal’s wooden jetty.

Major users of London Cruise Terminal include Cruise & Maritime Voyages and Fred. Olsen. Cruises departing from Tilbury generally head north to Scandinavia, the Baltic and Russia, or south to the Azores and the Caribbean.

The terminal is also in regular use for community events – an important reflection of the Port of Tilbury’s ongoing commitment to the local community.