Blank sheet of paper for Tilbury2

Tilbury's expansion is due to be operational in spring 2020. Credit: Port of Tilbury/Forth Ports Tilbury's expansion is due to be operational in spring 2020. Credit: Port of Tilbury/Forth Ports
Industry Database

The Port of Tilbury is expanding next door as part of its £1bn investment programme. Felicity Landon reports.

Tilbury2 is under way. In February, owner Forth Ports received development consent for its expansion of the Port of Tilbury, and construction work started almost immediately.

Taking in 152 acres of former power station land right next door to the existing port, Forth Ports says the development will create the UK's largest unaccompanied ferry port, the country's biggest construction processing hub, with Authorised Economic Operator-trusted trader status, a new significantly larger rail head which can accommodate the longest freight trains of 775 metres, and storage areas for a variety of goods, including exported and imported cars.

Tilbury2 is due to be operational in spring 2020. “Work has started onsite, with manufacturing already taking place for the roll on-roll off (ro-ro) terminal,” says Forth Ports chief executive Charles Hammond. “We have also continued with our extensive ecological mitigation compensation, relocating a lot of species to Mucking and Paglesham. There is a huge effort going into the ecological side.”

The riverside site has effectively provided a blank piece of paper in terms of design and that is particularly important, he notes. “Because this site will be designed from scratch as a modern port with modern systems and equipment, it will be more productive.” Tilbury2 will have the capacity to handle the same tonnage as the original port in a quarter of the land area.

Tilbury2 will operate as a satellite of the present port. And, probably needless to say, there is a Brexit angle to the facility. Forth Ports has pointed out that it will provide significant new capacity for unaccompanied roll-on/roll-off trailers in the South East, with direct access to the market — adding “extra resilience” to the UK's port infrastructure.

To be used by P&O's expanding Tilbury-Zeebrugge services, the ro-ro terminal will feature a linkspan bridge into the river, with a pontoon to handle two larger ferries, backed up by 50 acres for trailers and containers.

The aggregates terminal will be built in the northern part of the site — a conveyor system will move materials from the quay for stockpiling and production of block paving, asphalt and ready-mix concrete. Tilbury2 will be dredged to 15 m so that self-discharging aggregate ships can be handled.

Serving growth

Expansion is essential for the Port of Tilbury to cope with rising demand for construction materials and aggregates from the construction sector, an increase in cars, and an increase in commercial ferry volumes, which include consumer goods, food and drink, and steel, says Forth Ports.

Tilbury2 is central to the Port of Tilbury's £1bn investment programme during 2012-20. The port is projected to double its cargo volumes from 16m to 32m tonnes and increase direct employment from 3,500 to 12,000 jobs over the next 10-15 years.

Tilbury claims the top spot in the UK for paper and forest products, as well as for recyclables, including glass, wood, metal and general waste. Tilbury Grain Terminal, celebrating its half-century this year, is one of the country's largest. A 16,000 tonne capacity, automatic fill flat store extension has recently been completed, bringing the grain terminal's total storage capacity to 136,000 tonnes.

Meanwhile, Tilbury's London Container Terminal (LCT) handles both shortsea and deepsea services. A new rail service was introduced in 2018, linking the terminal with the Midlands and Central Scotland. Operated in collaboration with Stobart Rail, DRS, JF Hillebrand and Samskip, the first service departed at the beginning of September.

In February this year the port won the Rail Freight and Logistics Excellence award at the Rail Business Awards. As well as introducing regular intermodal services, Tilbury has created a dedicated bulk rail terminal which has subsequently been expanded to handle growing demand.

Tilbury has always prided itself on being a multipurpose port, and it has recently attracted two new cargoes.

After handling trial shipments of pumice stone last year, the port now has regular shipments confirmed for 2019 onwards. Shipped from the volcanic Greek island of Yali, the pumice is used to manufacture lightweight building blocks for the construction industry.

Tilbury is also handling its first regular liquid bulk shipments. Praxair started regular imports of carbon dioxide in 2018. This year it will open a purpose-built facility with specialised storage tanks on the quayside. The CO2 is imported for a variety of uses, including for beer pumps, abattoirs, refilling refrigerated transport units, producing carbonated drinks and beer, and in bakeries.

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