Freight by water...the message of Peruvian Wharf
After a long planning and legal saga, a safeguarded wharf will be handling cargo again this year.
The announcement that Peruvian Wharf in Newham has been acquired by the PLA and is set to return to operational use sends out a powerful message: the PLA is determined to protect and reactivate London’s ‘safeguarded’ wharves and it is prepared to fight long and hard to ensure that these wharves can play their part in getting freight off the roads and on to the water.
Peruvian Wharf is under the Mayor of London’s safeguarding policy, which currently covers 50 strategically placed wharves for cargo handling. Towards the end of 2016, after a 17-year planning and legal battle, agreement was finally reached with the site’s owners and the PLA bought the wharf for £3 million.
“This is a safeguarded wharf with a 200 metre quay on an eight-acre site, which was acquired by a developer in 1999 and kept vacant while the owner pursued various plans,” says Jim Trimmer, the PLA’s director of planning and environment. “It is the first wharf we have acquired in this way and the message is clear – we won’t go away. This is the end of a very long saga and now we look forward to getting tenants on to the site, and seeing the first cargo handled there.”
“We look forward to getting tenants on to the site, and seeing the first cargo handled there.” Jim Trimmer PLA Director of Planning and Environment
The PLA is to complete a new access road to the site and will then let a large part of Peruvian Wharf on a long-term lease to the construction and building materials group Brett.
Brett will develop an integrated aggregates terminal on the site and the whole operation is expected to be operational in 2018.
“We are hoping that Peruvian Wharf will make a substantial contribution to increasing waterborne freight handling in London,” says Jim Trimmer. “This will work towards our targets in the Thames Vision in reactivating safeguarded wharves and increasing intra-port trade.
There hasn’t been any investment in the site for a long time. We are undertaking the capital works now to ensure it is ready to start operations as soon as possible.”
Peruvian Wharf is ideally positioned to support East London’s growth, and this acquisition underlines the importance of retaining strategically located sites for cargo handling.
A record of more than five million tonnes of cargo was moved on the river in 2014, at the peak of two major infrastructure schemes. Those heights will be exceeded in coming years as underlying demand grows and Tideway tunnelling gets underway. With the attractions of the Thames as a congestion-free, ‘green’ transport option for freight manifest, having enough facilities along the river for handling, loading and unloading cargo is crucial.
Peruvian Wharf is one of three vacant wharves named within the Thames Vision as facilities to be brought back into longterm use. The other two are...
Hurlingham Wharf, in Hammersmith and Fulham: this is currently being used for the Tideway project but had been left vacant by its owners for a number of years. The PLA is focusing on ways to keep this wharf viable for cargo once Tideway is completed. Infrastructure investment Within the Thames Vision, the PLA’s duty to promote and improve cargo handling and port facilities has been reinforced. But this goes further than support and encouragement – the PLA is ready to take on a more proactive role by investing in port infrastructure and cargo handling facilities. “We want to work with cargo handlers on the river as an infrastructure partner,” says Jim Trimmer. “We are open to ideas. We are encouraging operators to come and talk to us – they will find the PLA receptive, willing and very proactive. “We are talking to a number of operators which want to invest in infrastructure and want to get the message out there that we are keen to discuss opportunities and invest to support and improve business in the port.”
Orchard Wharf in Tower Hamlets: Despite a disappointing ruling in the Court of Appeal, the PLA was encouraged that the CPO case it put forward was essentially considered solid and sound. “We remain committed to bringing Orchard Wharf back into active use as a freight wharf,” says Jim Trimmer.
The Thames Tideway Tunnel, the new 25-kilometre-long ‘super sewer’ being excavated through the centre of London, is having a massive impact on the River Thames – in more ways than one.
First, Tideway is being built to capture flows from 34 Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs), to dramatically reduce the amount of untreated sewage that can overflow into the tidal Thames.
Second, this is the biggest waste water project ever undertaken in the UK – and its success is entirely dependent on an unprecedented use of the river for moving cargo.
Tideway is committed in its Development Consent Order (DCO) to moving 90% of the materials involved in the project by river. As a result, millions of tonnes of excavated spoil heading out of the capital, massive pieces of construction equipment, cranes, tunnel boring machines, tunnel segments and construction materials will be transported to the three main drive sites and other riverside sites by water.
This is the biggest construction project in Europe – and its success is entirely dependent on an unprecedented use of the River Thames for moving cargo
In early 2017, construction work started and the first “specified materials” started to come upriver. Aggregates loaded at Murphy’s Wharf, Greenwich, were brought to Chambers Wharf for cofferdam infilling. In connection with this, the PLA gave consent for a temporary barge outloader at Murphy’s. Office accommodation cabins were delivered by barge. Steel work arrived by barge, and some spoil from Chamber’s Wharf had already headed out by the end of the year.
“Due to our work with Tideway, the total tonnage to be carried by water over the length of the project will exceed six million tonnes, which is a significant increase on the figure committed in the DCO of 4.3 million,” says Jim Trimmer. “For example, all of the tunnel lining segments for the three main drive sites will now come in by water, whereas the DCO was based on them coming by road.”
Tideway and the PLA have both made clear their hopes for a ‘legacy’ from the project – in the form of increased use of the river for cargo.
“To the west of London, a number of safeguarded wharves are being used as part of the construction project,” says Jim Trimmer. “But we are looking beyond Tideway to see how these can be reactivated in the long term and how we can take advantage of Tideway to create sustainable waterborne transport solutions. We already know that water can move bulks, including taking waste out from west London. The next stage could be an inland container terminal.”
The advantages of using water over road are well documented. Every barge carrying 1,000 tonnes of material takes the equivalent of 50 lorries off the roads. Few would argue that water is not therefore a better option. However, the PLA has now embarked on an exercise to demonstrate just how much better that option is. “We are going to put together some specific case studies – we want to know exactly how much better,” says Jim Trimmer. “As part of the wider air strategy we are developing with the GLA, TfL and other partners, we will use these case studies to demonstrate what the river contributes in terms of air quality, when used for transport, to better understand what the river does and how it can be improved.”
Tideway is on its way
The Tideway project, and the use of the river to support it, started in earnest in 2016. Towards the end of the year, the first piece of infrastructure was complete – a new pier at Blackfriars. The old pier will now be decommissioned to make way for Tideway’s main Blackfriars site, where work will start early in 2017.
“The construction of the new Millennium Pier at Blackfriars has been very successful and represents a huge collaboration between the stakeholders... the PLA, Transport for London, the City of London and ourselves,” says Roger Bailey, Tideway’s asset management director. “The new pier is much larger than the old one, so two big Clippers can berth at the same time. It’s certainly an improved piece of infrastructure.”
This is a project of staggering proportions; the internal diameter of the tunnel is between 6.5 and 7.2 metres, and its depth will be between 35 metres in west London and 65 metres in east London.
Tideway is committed to maximising its use of the Thames during the excavation and construction stages.
“We have been working very closely with the PLA in a couple of areas,” says Roger Bailey. “First, in terms of the marine/navigation side, and increasing the amount of materials that are moved on the river, we have moved forward considerably. We have brought the office cabins in for Chambers Wharf by river and we will be bringing all our tunnel boring machines in by river over 2017-18. That is going to be a dramatic sight.”
Tideway has also been working closely with the PLA’s Jim Trimmer regarding the use of Deptford Creek to serve the project’s site at Greenwich pumping station.
“We didn’t commit in the Development Consent Order (DCO) to use the river there because the creek is so narrow and constrained by tides,” says Roger Bailey. “However, there was a DCO obligation to review this. We are looking very closely at how we can utilise Deptford Creek as a further extension of our use of water.”
Tideway started work at several locations on the river during 2016, the most major being Chambers Wharf, one of the eastern drive sites, in Bermondsey. A temporary structure being built 40 metres out into the water will provide a huge working platform for the project and will also be used for taking material to and from the site by water. “In the river, there is a huge amount of engagement with the PLA, the Marine Management Organisation, Environment Agency and others,” says Roger Bailey. “This has gone very well. Elsewhere, we have started work for a very large shaft, 30 metres diameter, 50 metres deep, at our main central drive site at Kirtling Street; we have started work at Fulham, near Hurlingham Wharf, strengthening the river wall and doing enabling works; and at Victoria we are in the process of building a new mooring point for the Tattershall Castle restaurant boat so that we can start work there.”
Tideway has also worked with HR Wallingford to further develop its tug and barge simulator. Boatmasters working on the Tideway project must go through a validation/assessment process which requires them to spend three or four days at HR Wallingford demonstrating their skills and aptitude.
“We require anyone who is a boatmaster on our project to go through that validation. Now we are also looking to create a Thames familiarisation course for non-Tideway captains, so they can experience the river and what it will look like during the project.
“We hope as the project ramps up and the Thames Skills Academy gets stronger, then the Academy will take over that course and use it as a future ‘validation of quality’ process for everyone on the river who is part of the TSA. Through this focus on training, Tideway will have left a massive legacy for the river and we are really grateful for all the support of the PLA in this challenging project.”
A record of more than five million tonnes of cargo was moved on the river in 2014… those heights will be exceeded in coming years.
Within the Thames Vision, the PLA’s duty to promote and improve cargo handling and port facilities has been reinforced. But this goes further than support and encouragement – the PLA is ready to take on a more proactive role by investing in port infrastructure and cargo handling facilities.
“We want to work with cargo handlers on the river as an infrastructure partner,” says Jim Trimmer. “We are open to ideas. We are encouraging operators to come and talk to us – they will find the PLA receptive, willing and very proactive.
“We are talking to a number of operators which want to invest in infrastructure and want to get the message out there that we are keen to discuss opportunities and invest to support and improve business in the port.”