Joining the dots

From the new Lower Thames Crossing to the potential for LNG bunkering, the PLA provides both expert advice and practical support

OikosLandside works, part of the £65 million OIKOS investment.

New equipment, new vessels, new jetties…and whole new ports. Along the length of the tidal Thames, the extent of development and investment recently completed, under way or on the horizon is extraordinary. The common thread throughout is the PLA...

Advising, guiding and overseeing in its statutory role;
Working with policymakers and all stakeholders on the river;
Providing practical support and services in its ‘enabling’ role, to support vital trade and complex supply chains;
Helping planners and developers to achieve their aims while balancing this with protection of the river, the environment and the interests of all.

On the planning horizon is the new Lower Thames Crossing. The PLA provided expert comment and advice on the crossing proposals as a statutory authority; on a commercial basis, it also drew on its expert knowledge of the river to give guidance and support on the planned location of the road and tunnel, including providing a significant amount of hydrographic survey work.

After statutory consultation in 2018, Highways England is expected to submit a development consent order (DCO) application to the Planning Inspectorate in 2019. Depending ultimately on the Transport Secretary’s approval, the six year project could start in 2021. The PLA is ready to support the construction of the Lower Thames Crossing. Significant volumes of the spoil from tunnelling and of the construction materials required are likely to be moved on the river

In the longer term, the port hopes to benefit from the strategic location of the new crossing, which will relieve pressure on the Dartford Crossing and at other key road junctions and potentially open up a new access to London Gateway, the Port of Tilbury and other nearby terminal operations.

Future fuel – and future plans

As shipowners switch to, or consider, LNG (liquefied natural gas) to fuel their vessels, so questions of bunkering, operations and environmental issues must be considered.

The PLA will address the crucial issues in a Bunker Code for LNG now being compiled.

“We have had a few enquiries from companies considering setting up LNG bunkering, none of which has reached any decision so far,” says Cathryn Spain, harbour master (lower). “This is, of course, an issue we are trying to get ahead of, while considering all safety issues.

“We are always focused on what is coming over the horizon and are always open to people coming in to talk to us.”

The PLA will always respond to enquiries, she emphasises. “If we can’t answer a question straight away, we will at least send a holding email and acknowledge the enquiry. We have redoubled our efforts here, always trying to be helpful – we are conscious that people really don’t want to be passed around the houses.”

Offshore wind

Offshore wind Proposals to extend Thanet Offshore Wind Farm have been submitted to the Planning Inspectorate. Both the PLA and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) have expressed concerns about the plan.

The wind farm is outside port limits, but the extension would be very close to North East Spit, where pilots board vessels heading into the Thames and Medway.

“We have concerns for the safety of vessels transiting the area, or boarding and landing pilots, and for the potential impact on shipping and pilotage operations,” says Cathryn Spain. “We have submitted our representation to the Planning Inspectorate. Of course the PLA is in favour of renewable energy, but this still has to be balanced with safety.”

Thames Resilience

A new Thames Resilience Panel has been established, bringing together the PLA, emergency services and coastguard, local councils and others involved in resilience and response.

“This was one recommendation of a report commissioned by the Mayor of London to look at security and resilience,” says Cathryn Spain.

“This was one recommendation of a report commissioned by the Mayor of London to look at security and resilience,” says Cathryn Spain.

“We have 22 local boroughs that have an interest in the river and they all have their own resilience forums in which the PLA would be represented. However, we were keen to develop something focused purely on the Thames and are pleased to chair the panel’s meetings.”


Tilbury2, the expansion of the Port of Tilbury which takes in 152 acres of the former Tilbury Power Station site, is expected to get under way in the first half of 2019.

The PLA has played an important role in supporting and enabling the planned development, whilst undertaking a significant regulatory role, says Cathryn Spain, harbour master (lower). “We were very much involved in the planning process for Tilbury2 and look forward to construction starting soon,” she says.

Forth Ports Group, which owns the Port of Tilbury, has also moved ahead with a number of other developments, such as a major extension of Tilbury Grain Terminal, and new cargoes include carbon dioxide, used in carbonated drinks, beer and even crumpets, and pumice stone, used for manufacturing lightweight building blocks

DP World London Gateway

Opened for business for the first time in 2013, DP World London Gateway is now among the world’s fastest growing ports. Volumes increased by 36% in 2018, and another significant increase is expected in 2019.

Meanwhile, developments at the London Gateway Logistics Park included the opening of SH Pratt’s new Halo Handling temperature-controlled warehouse, and the opening of UPS’s 32,000 square metre European packaging, sorting and delivery hub.

Seacon expansion

Seacon has moved ahead with a major investment programme at Tower Wharf, Northfleet. The company has expanded its operations to take in a neighbouring one-acre site; during 2018, fencing, CCTV and demolition works were all completed there.

“In 2019, we are expecting delivery of a new fleet of forklifts, and we will continue our investment in site infrastructure works, namely fender replacement and major outside areas for asphalting,” says Seacon chairman James Roth. “The purpose of these works is to maximise the productive use of our site and demonstrate to our customers that we have a long-term vision for cargo-handling at Northfleet.

“The exciting news for us is the start of Thames Tideway Tunnel related work. We are currently storing large volumes of concrete segments, which will be loaded on to barges through 2019 for delivery to west London. We are well placed to handle this type of work, with heavy craneage, all-weather working and ample space. This work might also lead to further opportunities to handle construction project traffic in the future.”

Seacon handles general cargo, breakbulk, steel, metals and forest products at Northfleet.

Peruvian WharfPeruvian Wharf – safeguarded wharf reactivation in East London


Oikos Storage Ltd has invested £65 million in the third phase of a major construction and development programme at its bulk liquid storage terminal on Canvey Island.

The project includes the construction of an additional 80,000 cubic metres of gasoline licensed tankage and a new jetty.

The new Jetty 2 was completed in 2018 – capable of accommodating vessels up to 120,000 dwt and 14.5 metres draft, it is equipped with two 16-inch marine loading arms, each discharging up to 3,000 cubic metres per hour via two 24-inch import pipelines.

New road loading racks were commissioned in November 2018. These are capable of loading both aviation fuel and ground fuels via dedicated systems.

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

Bennett’s Barges

Bennett’s Barges has taken delivery of eight new barges specifically designed and built to meet the needs of the Tideway project. Adding more than 11,000 tonnes of extra capacity to the River Thames, the barges will play a crucial role in removing millions of tonnes of spoil from central London as the Tideway tunnel is excavated.

At least 150 lorry journeys will be saved per barge load taken out

Thames Enterprise Park

A planning application has been submitted for the proposed development of a four million square foot logistics hub at Thames Enterprise Park, on the site of the old Coryton oil refinery.

The development, jointly proposed by iSec (part of the private equity firm Marcol) and Thames Oilport shareholder Greenergy, features four clusters: a food hub, an energy hub, a sustainable industries hub and an innovation hub.

It is hoped that planning permission will be granted in the first half of 2019, says Andrew Long, development manager at iSec.

Demolition of the old refinery was completed early in 2018 and remediation work will follow. The first buildings could be up by the end of 2019 or early 2020.
Thames Enterprise Park has a substantial river frontage and three jetties – and the advantages of location, scale and connectivity, says Andrew Long. The developers say up to 5,000 jobs could be created there, with the four clusters supporting and sustaining each other.

Major investment by Hanson

Major investment by Hanson Construction materials company Hanson has completed the first phase of an upgrade at its Dagenham aggregates depot and wharf. A new plant capable of processing 500 tonnes of marine-dredged sand and gravel an hour is now fully operational.

The £4.3 million scheme involved bringing in a temporary unit to maintain supplies while the old plant, installed in the 1980s, was demolished and replaced.

This work is part of a £20 million three-phase investment programme at the site which ties in with the £70 million purchase of two new M-class marine aggregate dredgers.

A £6 million project to replace the ship-to-shore conveyor system to match off-loading capacity to the new dredgers and double the stocking area is scheduled for completion in the first quarter of 2019.

Work will then begin on a series of projects to reduce material handling across the site, including automated loading of barges and trains and a new plant for blending manufactured sand – a combination of limestone dust from Whatley quarry and marine-dredged sand.

The Dagenham depot and wharf is a key materials handling hub for the London market. The site receives around 1.2 million tonnes a year of marine-dredged sand and gravel from the North Sea and the eastern English Channel, along with 800,000 tonnes of aggregates by rail from Whatley quarry, in Somerset, and Cliffe Hill, in Leicestershire.

The site also houses a readymixed concrete plant, two asphalt plants and a packed products bagging operation

Peruvian Wharf

During 2018, work continued to prepare Peruvian Wharf for operations. This safeguarded wharf, acquired by the PLA in 2016 to force its reactivation, has been leased to the construction and building materials group Brett.

Operations are expected to start in May 2019.

HansonHanson’s Dagenham depot and wharf – major investment readying for new dredgers.