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London Gateway Logistics Park – a step change in supply chain thinking

[ July 20, 2015   //   ]

London Gateway’s new Logistics Park is set to revolutionise how supply chains are serviced in the UK, says Mike Thomas, client services director at the new facility’s operator, Import Services Ltd (ISL). With the growth of online shopping, many industries are moving away from importing and storing bulk volumes and instead are taking a “little and often” approach” to managing their supply chain, he told journalists at a conference to mark the opening of the new Park on 20 July.

ISL is operating the new centre at London Gateway and has already attracted a number of retailer clients. The new centre was officially opened on the same day by minister for transport, Robert Goodwill and DP World chairman Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem with a ribbon cutting ceremony.

Mike Thomas cited the example of The Toy Store in London’s West End as an example of the new thinking. “We can hold stock here at London Gateway and shuttle it to Bond Street up to four times a day. This is quintessentially the sort of work this building was made for,” he said.

As well as toys, ISL has already attracted other business from importers of nursery goods, fruit and wine and Thomas predicts that the first phase, 180,000sq ft seven rack high narrow aisle building will be full by about the end of the year. “The game plan is for a Mark II replica of this building,” he told FBJ in an interview. “It’s just a question of building it.”

He added: “Frankly, demand has taken our breath away – and I think we’ve got the advantage of being first adopters here.”

While some commentators have noted the fact that the new London Gateway port has yet to attract a main far East to Europe trade, Thomas points out that ISL is already handling substantial volumes of Far East-originating cargo, transhipped via Jebel Ali. In any case, said Mike Thomas, it was probably a question of “when, not if” London Gateway was able to attract a major Far East to Europe line.

ISL has long operated an import centre at the port of Southampton, but Mike Thomas did not think that the London Gateway facility would seriously abstract cargo. In fact, one factor that prompted ISL to develop London Gateway was the fact that the facility there is full and with no immediate ability to expand further.

As for whether the ISL concept could be replicated in other locations, Mike Thomas pointed out that some of the business being handled in London Gateway was enticed away from Trafford Park in Manchester. There are already similar operations serving port users in the North-west of England, though he would not rule out a partnership with them. One other possibility might be a Continental European operation. Some North American clients have suggested it, but research would be needed to see if the demand was there.

Another possibility might be to feed traffic across to the Continent from London Gateway by rail through the Channel Tunnel.

Another advantage of the London Gateway site is its ability to use space on domestic and European vehicles that have delivered to retailers in London; at present, many of these vehicles have no choice but to return home empty.

And a final advantage stems from its on-dock location, Canny freight operators have realised that they can make use of marginal space in containers and load them up to 80 tonnes; the boxes can be taken direct from the port to the logistics centre without using public roads for unloading.

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