The port of Tilbury will start consultations next week over a £100 million ($128 million) expansion program including a second cargo terminal near the mouth of the River Thames.
London’s major port is obliged to consult with local communities and other stakeholders over the new “satellite" terminal on a 152-acre site that will handle roll-on, roll-off (ro-ro), bulk, and container traffic to keep pace with rising volumes on intra-European short-sea lanes and intercontinental deep-sea routes.
The port also plans to boost its logistics business to exploit growing demand for just-in-time deliveries that resulted in Amazon deciding to locate its largest UK fulfillment center — currently under construction — on the site.
The port expects to apply for planning permission for the new terminal, which is being built on the site of a former power station, toward the end of the year.
“Our plan to create a new port in Tilbury is an exciting opportunity for not only the port and the local area but for our customers who are seeking more space to expand their own businesses,” said Peter Ward, the port’s commercial director.
Tilbury, like other British ports, will be affected positively or negatively by the outcome of Brexit negotiations over the UK’s exit from the European Union, which are due to start on June 19, the day the port launches its consultations with local interests.
Tilbury currently does around 60 percent of its business with Europe, but it is confident its expansion will increase its non-EU traffic from Africa, India, and Asia if the Brexit talks result in the United Kingdom leaving the EU’s single market and customs union.
Although Tilbury is bullish over its post-Brexit future, ports that are dependent on ro-ro and short-sea feeder traffic fear the UK’s departure from the customs union would see the return of customs checks that became redundant when the single market was established in 1992.
Dover, the UK’s largest ro-ro hub, handling up to 16,000 trucks per day, faces a “real risk” of overwhelming congestion if customs checks are revived, according to the port’s CEO Tim Waggot.
Other ports are more positive about Brexit, including Liverpool, which recently opened a £400 million container terminal and is expected to lobby for a free trade zone — difficult to create under EU rules — after the United Kingdom quits the European Union.