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Light freight could tap Thames potential

[ February 8, 2022   //   ]

The River Thames has untapped potential for handling light freight, says a new report commissioned by the Thames Estuary Growth Board and the Port of London Authority.

This report finds that the River could be used for deliveries of parcels, food, beverages, and retail goods. It would also deliver new jobs, ease congestion and air pollution, and help keep the nation on track to net zero.

Light Freight on the River Thames was delivered by engineering professional services consultancy, WSP.

However, the challenge for river freight is that it needs to be a viable option for supply chains for it to be adopted by business. But handling just 3% of the 700 million parcels delivered in London annually could make river freight competitive with traditional road freight, it argues.

The study was launched at the Thames Estuary Growth Board’s virtual roundtable, “We’re in a good place for greener freight” on Tuesday 8thFebruary. The study will be discussed by operators, logistics companies and key stakeholders seeking to make light freight on the Thames a reality in the coming years.

The report also recommends establishing a coordinating body with political backing that can put pressure on stakeholders to help facilitate riverside developments. It show how operations at the key points – loading, unloading and last mile – can work seamlessly and efficiently to attract anchor customers as well as develop detailed options for pier development that minimise costs and maximise market access.

Revenue support mechanisms and understanding of customer willingness to pay for environmentally friendly deliveries could realise the social benefits of river freight. Limited increases in road pricing would also facilitate an enormous reduction in van traffic.

The Board says that light river freight is already showing signs of resurgence, with the drive of organisations such as the Port of London Authority and the use of the river for parcel trade by DHL for example and hospital supplies.

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