DP World’s London Gateway, a new container port east of London due to start operations in the fourth quarter of this year, could become a node for containerised parts and finished vehicles in and out out of the UK.  

Speaking during an Automotive Logistics Webinar, Peter Ward, commercial manager for cargo supply chain at the port, pointed out that the port’s location could save manufacturers inland logistic cost to points serving the London region, as well as Birmingham, the Midlands and Manchester. In comparison to other southern ports, Ward said Drewry estimates savings per container of $300 to London and $95 to other regions.

The port is located about 40km from central London on the north bank of the River Thames in Essex.

It could play a role in production and aftermarket logistics, said Ward, particularly for manufacturers with plants and sizeable spare parts network in the UK, who are looking to backhaul parts to Europe and other markets. The port will eventually house Europe’s largest logistics park, with 10m square metres available of space for bonded storage, crossdocking and other logistics activity. Ward said that at least one major automotive supplier in the UK has identified the facility as a potential distribution centre.

“The tier one has identified the London Gateway as a great location to consolidate exports and send by high frequency shipping to its overseas dealer and distribution network,” said Ward.

Earlier this week, Marks & Spencer, one of the UK’s largest retailers, announced that it would invest £200m at the port to build a new 900,000 square feet (8,300 square metre) distribution centre.

Although London Gateway currently has no plans to develop a car and ro-ro terminal, Ward also suggested that the port was positioned well to handle cars moving in containers. “The location of London Gateway would be key to containerised vehicles, as it is closer to points of manufacturing and very much closer to the UK’s main centres for consumption,” he said.

Ward also said the port could capture a share of the UK’s growing exports, both in knockdown kits and finished vehicles. “We know there is the new JLR plant being built in China and a large amount of CKD flows, but we also think there are many growing markets in India and other emerging economies where the frequency of ro-ro services might not be as much as in the past,” said Ward.  

Cars move in container in relatively small numbers compared to ro-ro ships, however they are common to markets less served by ro-ro or car terminals, as well as by some high-end manufacturers.

Ward also pointed out that with a ro-ro terminal located nearby in Tilbury, London Gateway has plans to work in conjunction with the port on vehicle and automotive handling.

London Gateway is one of the UK’s largest infrastructure projects, built on the site of a former oil refinery on reclaimed land form from 100km of dredging in the Thames and the North Sea. DP World plans to eventually open seven berths capable of serving ships larger than 18,000 TEUs, the first of which will during the fourth quarter. At full capacity, it will handle around 3.5m TEUs per year.

The port will also have three rail terminals, with expectations that 30% of freight moving in and out of the port will move by rail.

Ward said that the port would be open to developing further automotive facilities, and it will seek to understand the industry’s needs during a special Automotive Logistics Forum on July 4th at the port, which will include workshops, discussions and tours. All parties interested in the port are invited to attend.

The webinar can be listened to again here