Making room for more... Port of Tilbury

Tilbury2 will deliver much-needed additional capacity, acting as a satellite of the of the present port.

The Port of Tilbury is already recognised as one of the most multipurpose, flexible, dynamic, successful ports in the UK. And there is more – much more – to come.

Towards the end of 2017, the port formally submitted its application to the Planning Inspectorate for a development consent order (DCO) to build a new terminal next door. Tilbury2 is to be built on a 152-acre site which was part of the former Tilbury Power Station, and the opportunities are vast.

PLA PilotsScandinavian product unloaded at one of Tilbury’s dedicated paper terminals, Enterprise Distribution Centre

The Port of Tilbury, owned by Forth Ports...

Has doubled the size of its business in the past decade;

Is forecasting doubling the volumes across its quays, from from 16 million tonnes to 32 million tonnes, over the next ten to 15 years;

Expects to triple the direct employment, from 3,500 to 12,000 jobs, in the same timeframe.

Tilbury has been praised by International Trade Secretary Liam Fox as ‘a great example of an ambitious, successful operation which is growing to deliver the capacity businesses need to export products from the UK across the world’.

“As an international economic department, we will continue to champion the growth of our maritime sector, and we would certainly encourage local businesses to make the most of the fantastic connections Tilbury has to offer,” he said.

Tilbury is a port with worldwide trading links, a leading position in many essential commodities, however the port is now approaching capacity. The Port and its customers require the increased capacity that Tilbury2 will provide, says Charles Hammond, chief executive of the Forth Ports Group. It is also a port which is continuously creating jobs and is very active in the community. “The Port of Tilbury is an example of the Government’s Industrial Strategy in action and also a business that is well positioned to meet and take advantage of the challenges posed by Brexit,” he says.

“Tilbury2 will deliver much-needed port capacity to support businesses importing and exporting to and from Europe and across the globe at a crucial time for the UK.”

Expected to be operational in the second quarter of 2020, Tilbury2 will act as a satellite of the present port. It will provide a ro-ro ferry terminal for containers and trailers, a facility for importing, processing, manufacturing and distributing construction materials, and a storage area for a variety of goods, including export/import cars. There will be new national strategic rail and road connections into the site.

Expansion is needed in particular to meet rising demand for construction materials and aggregates, and for imported and exported cars. The port also needs to accommodate an increase in freight volumes carried by ro-ro ferry, including consumer goods, food, drink and other perishables, and steel.

This is not one of those development proposals that languishes on a shelf waiting for action. Tilbury2 is going through the planning process as a nationally significant infrastructure project and it progressed exceptionally quickly during 2017, says Peter Ward, commercial director of the Port of Tilbury. Consultations were extensive, and completed in July.

“The planning process is moving very fast for Tilbury2; having submitted the plans to the Planning Inspectorate, we will now go through the examination process in 2018. That is a major move forward.”

That examination of the proposals will continue through 2018, and a decision by the Secretary of State is expected in the first quarter of 2019. If the application is successful, development work would begin very quickly.

And meanwhile, part of the site has been used as temporary storage for Hyundai cars, whose numbers continue to grow through the port.

The Tilbury2 site has an existing deepwater jetty on the river – this will be extended both upstream and downstream, to provide one berth for aggregate vessels and two for ro-ro vessels. The new site will bring the port’s total footprint to 1,100 acres – the current port has 56 operational berths, 31 independent operating terminals and a total of 10.2 kilometres of quayside, including deepwater berths outside the locks.

Tilbury2 is central to the Port of Tilbury’s £1 billion investment programme for 2012-20. That programme includes the construction of the new 2.2 million square foot Amazon warehouse on the port’s London Distribution Park. The largest warehouse in the UK, it was completed at the end of August 2017, opening in time for the peak pre-Christmas season.

“Of course, Amazon chose its location because of the port – goods are coming in via P&O’s ferry service and through the container terminal,” says Peter Ward. “We are talking to Amazon about how we can help to improve its supply chain and take costs out – including the possibility of moving things upriver.”

P&O Ferries

P&O Ferries had a record-breaking year on its Tilbury-Zeebrugge route in 2017, carrying more freight on the service than in any other year since it was launched a decade earlier.

The integrated ferry and logistics company carried 185,908 freight units between January and December 2017, an increase of 4.3 per cent on 2016, its previous best 12-month period.

“These outstanding volumes show the growing popularity of the route from the continent to Tilbury and underline its importance as a gateway to Britain,” said Nick Pank, P&O Ferries’ head of freight - North Sea.

“Given the strategic location of Tilbury – which is the closest port to London and has 18 million people living within 75 miles – the vast majority of the goods we carry are consumables such as wines, spirits, dairy, water and a wide range of other supermarket products,” he said.

“Freight customers like the route because we can load and unload our ships in just four hours, thereby enabling them to get out of the port gates and on to the road quicker than if they travel with any of our competitors. The time it takes for our customers to drop off and collect units at the Port of Tilbury is also exceptional – for a trailer it is 20 minutes and for a lift unit it is 30 minutes.”

P&O Ferries operates two ferries on the route, the 20,000 gt sister ships Norstream and Norsky, sailing 24 times a week in total on the eight hour crossing.

Community focus

A key part of the Port of Tilbury’s Tilbury2 expansion is an ‘Active Travel Plan’ focusing on improving connectivity around Tilbury. The port has already provided a small recreational and wildlife park next to the Amazon warehouse, as part of its Section 106 agreement. This has included a walkway and ecology area, with the success obvious in the number of water voles that have colonised the site already. The footpath enables local people to cross the road safely to the Asda supermarket.

In October 2017, the port presented its plans to Thurrock Council for connecting the town of Tilbury to the riverside through enhanced cycleways and walkways.

The port has also agreed funding of £350,000 for the Tilbury-Gravesend ferry over five years as part of the development of the London Distribution Park, recognising that as Tilbury2 creates more jobs, the demand for the ferry service will increase.

Tilbury supports many community projects in the area and is proud to be part of its local communities, says Charles Hammond. “Many of our workforce are part of local families who have worked in the port for generations.”

The Port of Tilbury Logistics Academy is renowned locally for its support of careers advice and skills development programmes – the academy team sits on advisory boards and attends community events to promote the transport and logistics industry.

The port also hosted Opportunity Thurrock at the Cruise Terminal. Thousands of students from local schools attended the careers event promoting local employment and education opportunities. Amongst other community initiatives, Tilbury supports the Orsett Show, several sports clubs and schools, local hospices and other charities.

Port of Tilbury facilities mapPort of Tilbury facilities map

Rail freight

A new rail terminal for handling bulk cargoes is now in operation at the port. The former Freightliner facility was reconfigured during 2017 to create Tilbury’s first dedicated bulk materials rail terminal. It is now being used for regular movements of recycling glass to Ardagh Group’s recycling plant in Cheshire and elsewhere in the UK, as well as for carrying aggregates by train.

“Bringing together glass recycling with movements by train creates an environmentally superior process,” says Peter Ward. “In time, we hope to grow the port’s rail freight offering across a range of bulk materials, with associated growth in rail movements.”

Amongst the bulk cargoes handled at the port, building materials are a particularly big growth sector, he adds. In the past few months, new customer Euroag has started bringing in lightweight aggregates.

“We are seeing a growth in blast furnace and power station ash imports – that is because of a shortage in the UK as coal is no longer burned.”

Even more multipurpose

The Port of Tilbury is the UK’s top port for handling forest products, construction materials, paper, grain and recyclables, and has a strong market presence in bulk commodities, ro-ro, cars and cruise vessels. The port’s London Container Terminal handles both shortsea and deepsea services; it is the fourth busiest port in the UK for containers, and the only UK port with a dedicated onsite chill store directly adjacent to the container terminal serving the population of the South East of England.

Multipurpose? Certainly. Up for more diversification? Of course. Tilbury is preparing to handle liquid bulks for the first time. Praxair is to import CO2 through a new terminal now under construction at 7 and 8 Berths. To be delivered in pressurised vessels, the CO2 is in demand for brewing and producing carbonated drinks. Initially Praxair will store it in a dockside vessel, while a permanent facility is built.

The Port of Tilbury continues to support significant infrastructure construction projects in London. In the second half of 2017 the Thames Tideway project utilised the Port of Tilbury as a marine mobilisation base for a significant amount of equipment that was being moved up and down the River Thames as part of the construction works and the port has worked closely with many of the contractors, allowing the Port of Tilbury to act as consolidation centre for the delivery of materials to the construction sites.

An expansion of the Port of Tilbury’s grain terminal is under way, on the back of a new long-term storage agreement with grain customers.


PLA Tilbury CruiseRecord breaker – Mein Schiff 3 the largest cruise ship ever to berth at London International Cruise terminal

In September 2017, the Port of Tilbury handled its largest ever cruise vessel, Tui Cruises’ Mein Schiff 3. The 99,430 gt ship carries up to 2,506 passengers.

“This has really put us on the map,” says Paul Dale, asset and site director at the Port of Tilbury. “We have invested heavily in our historic London Cruise Terminal and have continued to attract ever higher numbers of ship calls and passengers. We saw more than 100,000 cruise passengers pass through our terminal in 2017.”

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 advent of affordable air travel.

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

Investment in recent years has included refurbishing the floating part of the terminal, as well as extensive work on the building and facilities.

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

Entertainment resort partnership

A new Entertainment Resort is to be built on the Swanscombe Peninsula on the other side of the River Thames – and the Port of Tilbury will play a crucial role in the work.

Tilbury has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with London Resort Company Holdings (LRCH) which will see the port and its facilities used as the main location for storage, loading, discharge, barge operations and other services in connection with the development and construction of the resort in Kent.

“We have always spoken of our commitment to make use of the Thames during both construction and operation,” said Humphrey Percy, CEO of LRCH. “Reaching an MoU with the Port of Tilbury underlines this commitment.”

Charles Hammond says: “The Port of Tilbury is ideally located as a hub for LRCH’s proposed construction project. We are committed to encouraging the increased use of the River Thames for major construction projects. By using the river, there is not only a reduction in the road miles impact, but it also helps to reduce congestion on the road network. At Tilbury, LRCH will benefit from our expertise in warehouse consolidation, handling services and waterborne transportation.”

The Entertainment Resort will feature a theme park, hotels and indoor entertainment.