River of investment

From the development of Tilbury2 to the opening of Peruvian Wharf, operators along the tidal Thames are investing and expanding.

PLA Looking to the futureLooking to the future - Seacon planning investment at Tower Wharf

Around 50 million tonnes of cargo is handled on the Thames annually. That’s a figure expected to rise dramatically, as terminal and wharf operators along the tidal Thames continue to invest in new and improved facilities and equipment, and new shipping services are launched.

The PLA plays a vital role in supporting and enabling developments on the river – for example, discussing the planning of Tilbury2.

“That has included a navigational risk assessment to ensure ships can come alongside and depart without interfering with other traffic on the river,” says Cathryn Spain, harbour master (lower). “We have also been involved in several other development consent order (DCO) applications.”

Meanwhile, the PLA is closely involved in plans to provide new interconnector cables between the European mainland and the UK, where they would come ashore at the Isle of Grain.

“This will be a challenge because the cables will cross over power cables to/ from the wind farm. More cables equals, for us, more equipment on the seabed; the area involved is partly within our jurisdiction and partly outside. We don’t own the seabed, but we can comment from a navigational safety perspective.”

The PLA will advise and support on the laying of the cables, introducing one-way working in certain areas of the channel and other traffic management measures where necessary during the installation. “It’s a case of determining how much room they need, the type of vessels they are using, and whether they have the flexibility to stop work quickly if necessary.”

There are also plans for an extension of Thanet Offshore Wind Farm; this is outside port limits but very close to where pilots board and land at North East Spit for vessels heading into the Thames and Medway. The development was out to formal consultation at the time of writing.

The route of the new Lower Thames Crossing and associated road infrastructure has now been agreed; it is expected, and hoped, that a good volume of the spoil from tunnelling and of the construction materials required will be moved on the river.

Further DCOs are expected to be submitted, including one in connection with the planned Entertainment Resort on the Swanscombe Peninsula in North Kent. The developers plan to use an old jetty to bring in the majority of materials for construction; once the resort is open, the expectation is that some visitors will arrive by passenger services on the river.

“We are looking into the operational arrangements for the jetty and any constraints around that – but clearly, getting materials in and out by river is very positive,” says Cathryn Spain.


Tilbury2, the development of 152 acres of the former Tilbury Power Station site, is central to the Port of Tilbury’s £1 billion investment programme for 2012-20.

At the end of 2017, an application was submitted to the Planning Inspectorate for a development consent order (DCO) for this expansion ‘next door’ to the existing port.

The investment programme at Tilbury also includes the giant Amazon UK warehouse on the port’s 70-acre London Distribution Park. Tilbury has doubled the size of its business in the past decade and is forecasting a doubling of cargo volumes across its quays, from 16 million to 32 million tonnes over the next 10-15 years. Forth Ports, which owns the Port of Tilbury, predicts that direct employment at the port will be tripled, from 3,500 to 12,000 jobs.

Tilbury2 is expected to be operational in 2020, and will act as a satellite of the main port.

London Gateway

DP World London Gateway opened its third berth in April 2017, in time for the arrival of shipping consortium THE Alliance. Also during 2017, plans were announced for new haulage and container yards, and a multi-temperature product handling facility

Thames Enterprise Park

Plans have been drawn up for a four million square foot logistics hub at Thames Enterprise Park, which is located on the site of the former Coryton oil refinery. The development, jointly proposed by iSec (part of private equity firm Marcol) and Thames Oilport shareholder, Greenergy, includes four distinct clusters: a food hub, an energy hub, a sustainable industries hub and an innovation hub.

“Thames Enterprise Park covers 415 acres with a substantial river frontage – its key advantages are its location, connectivity and sheer scale,” says Andrew Long, development manager at iSec. The transformational plans for this site could create up to 5,000 jobs.

The idea is that the four clusters would support and sustain each other – for example, with energy from Thames Energy Hub used by Thames Food Hub, waste food providing feedstock for the energy hub, and waste-derived fuels being used by Thames Oilport. The site’s position next door to international port of DP World London Gateway is another obvious advantage.

The site has six jetties – three will remain in use by Thames Oilport for fuel import/export, leaving three to be utilised by Thames Enterprise Park.

“We are very keen to retain these jetties, which are one of the most interesting features of the site,” says Andrew Long. “This is one of the few sites in the country that is truly trimodal, with excellent road and rail links and the opportunity to develop better use of the River Thames.”

The food logistics cluster would probably take up two-thirds of the site and would include substantial cold storage operations. “We see a huge opportunity, given where the site is in the South East and its proximity to London. The site is relatively unconstrained in terms of height and it allows flexibility to incorporate the next generation of efficient, automated cold storage buildings.”

The hub would be expected to serve retailers, restaurants, fast food outlets and other food service operators, in a region where the industry is growing fast.

“We believe this site can link into the London Plan and the aspiration to take traffic off the roads; certainly, use of the river is something we are looking at. We also expect customers onsite to take product directly from London Gateway, and send some products out via the port.”

Remediation work on the site is expected to start in early 2018 and the first buildings should be taking shape from early to mid-2019.


CEMEX has signed a contract for a new Marine Aggregate Dredger as part of fleet renewal plans. The vessel, which will be built at Damen Shipyards Galati, in Romania, is designed to extract sand and gravel from the sea bed up to depths of 55 metres, including in the challenging conditions experienced in the North Sea.

PLA CemexNew vessel on the way – Cemex has ordered a new marine aggregated dredger

Brett Aggregates

Brett Aggregates will open a state-of-the art concrete plant at Peruvian Wharf in 2018, supplying the full range of high specification concrete mixes to the local area around Silvertown and to ongoing major projects in the rapidly developing East London area.

The PLA invested £6 million in acquiring the wharf and preparing it for use.

Bennett’s Barges

Bennett’s Barges has ordered eight new barges for operations on the River Thames. Being built by the Dutch company Baars, there will be two 1,600-ton barges, four at 1,500 tons and two at 1,000 ton – to be delivered in 2017-2018.

The barges have been designed specifically to meet the requirements of the Thames Tideway Tunnel project; Bennett’s has been contracted to remove spoil from the Carnwath Road worksite at Wandsworth Bridge, as part of its work with Tideway.

Livett’s Launches and Bennett’s Barges worked together in July and August 2017 to help deliver 94 office cabins to Carnwath Road.


Seacon is expanding its operations at Tower Wharf, Northfleet, through the acquisition of a neighbouring one-acre site – and it is also investing in its haulage fleet, terminal equipment and security fencing.

“This expansion will enable us to realign the trailer park and create additional outside storage space,” says Seacon chairman James Roth. “It will open up opportunities for handling building products and serving key construction projects, where we see significant opportunities.”

Seacon handles general cargo, breakbulk, steel, metals and forest products at Northfleet. Work on the new site will start early in 2018 with the demolition of old buildings and the installation of new security fencing. “We will be placing the emphasis on building products, including rebar,” says James Roth. “We are looking closely at construction projects linked to the Thames and the prospect of loading barges going up to the city.”

Meanwhile, Seacon’s forest products subsidiary at Tilbury is also expanding – and taking on a new name. The former Stanton Grove, which specialises in packaging, tissue products and other commodities, will be renamed Seacon (S.G.) Ltd from January 2018.

Seacon’s roots go back to the 1950s, when the company started out as an agency. “We have had a presence in the Port of London ever since. We are very closely associated with the Thames through our Northfleet and Tilbury operations – we are four-square behind the Port of London.”

Eurovia Roadstone

The wharf is critical to the running of Eurovia’s asphalt plant on the site, as more than 90% of its primary aggregates – more than 200,000 tonnes a year – are imported by water. By using the Thames to receive aggregate shipments, the company saves more than 8,000 lorry movements a year, reducing emissions and the company’s carbon footprint.

The work carried out in 2017 included removing existing timbers and replacing them with 2,000 linear metres of greenheart timber – chosen for its resistance to decay and attack by marine organisms. An extra buffer timber was installed on the front of the main timbers. Horizontal timbers, which had been broken in places due to boats mooring and pushing up against them with the rising tide, were replaced by vertical timbers to stop this from recurring. Access ladders were replaced and a walkway was constructed to make receiving shipments safer. The new wharf frontage has a design life of 30 years.

PLA EuroviaSecuring the future – Eurovia’s £450,000 investment in its Dagenham Dock wharf.


At the Canvey Island bulk liquid storage terminal of Oikos Storage Ltd, the third phase of a major investment programme is now under way. This £65 million investment will provide another 80,000 cubic metres of new gasoline licensed tankage, new road loading gantries and a new jetty, all to be commissioned in late 2018.

The terminal’s existing Jetty 1 has three marine loading arms and four import lines, each capable of discharging at up 750 cubic metres per hour, and can accommodate vessels of up to 55,000 dwt with 12.5 metres draft.

The new Jetty 2 will initially have two 16-inch marine loading arms, each discharging up to 3,000 cubic metres per hour via two 24-inch import pipelines. It will be capable of receiving vessels of up to 120,000 dwt and 14.5 metres draft.

The new road loading facilities will be capable of loading both aviation fuel and ground fuels via dedicated systems.


Construction materials company Hanson is investing £70 million in two new 3,000 cubic metre capacity trailing suction hopper dredgers for its marine aggregate fleet. These will be used to bring sand and gravel from the North Sea and Eastern English Channel into dedicated wharves on the Thames and Medway rivers.

The new trailing suction hopper dredgers, which will enter service in 2019, will be equivalent in size to Hanson’s existing A-Class vessels, carrying up to 5,500 tonnes of sand and gravel, and will provide major improvements in fuel consumption, reliability and CO2 emissions. They are being built by the Dutch shipbuilder Barkmeijer at its yard at Stroobos in the Netherlands.

“Marine dredged sand and gravel is critical to our UK business. It is used in around half of our readymixed concrete plants and is becoming more and more important due to the increasing scarcity of land-won sand and gravel, particularly around London and South East England,” said Hanson UK chief executive Daniel Cooper.

The new vessels will be complemented by a £12 million investment by Hanson in its Victoria Deep Water Terminal on the Thames at Greenwich. The plans for the site include replacing two existing concrete batching plants with three new ones enclosed within a new building. Raw materials for concrete production, principally sand and gravel, which is currently stored in open bays, will also be kept in the building.