Tilbury docks & state-of-the-art infrastructure


The Port of Tilbury is strategically located to serve not only the south east of England but other regions as well. It is found in Tilbury, Essex and works as the main port for London. Being used for general cargo and container unloading, it also serves as the main UK port for ships importing paper and other forest products. Tilbury docks opened in 1886 but since then the port has not only expanded in size but has also become an example of state-of-the-art infrastructure.

History at glance

London’s first docks opened in the early 19th century close to the city. But with the expansion of railway that location lost its significance. Deep water proximity and access to sites were now of bigger importance. To achieve this, Tilbury port was built. 17 April 1886 marks the date of the first ship entering the port. In the early 20th century the docks with other ports formed Port of London Authority (PLA). Major works to improve the port were carried out, including new docks connecting port to Thames. Further expansion was carried out later with new container port in 1967. Tilbury docks were privatised in 1992 and are now part of Forth Ports.

Modern and fast operations in Tilbury docks

The Port of Tilbury consists of 16 terminals and 7.5km long quay. Warehousing space is 500,000 sq metres. It has excellent road connections between sites and is well linked with London. Adjacent London Distribution Park is currently being constructed as well. This will make Tilbury docks even more attractive in terms of logistics and distribution.

One of the most fascinating aspects of this port is its cranes. In 2013 Paceco Espana S.A. received a contract for 2 ship-to-shore cranes. Clearance between their legs is 17m and 45ft heavy containers can be efficiently handled. Cranes can lift up to 40 tonnes under a single lift spreader and even more under twin-lift spreader (45t) and headblock (57t). They are equipped with many high-tech developments and features. Most recent electronic controls, anti-collision, diagnostic and weight-controlling system are the most prominent. Other cranes used at the docks are Liebherr 550 mobile crane and Kalmar straddle carrier. £20bln investment was aided by the Motorway of the Sea grant. It is targeted at congestion reduction in waters between Iberian Peninsula and the UK.

Automated cranes

The most prominent element of the infrastructure are the automated cranes. They perform various tasks, such as stacking containers in the correct order. On arrival, trucks are scanned and directed to the correct location, process, which is also automated. Cranes then load the correct container. Automation allows the port to operate regardless the weather and has a huge advantage over nearby ports, such as Southampton.

Most recent acquisitions

Two largest cranes in the world were spotted in mid-June in Tilbury, with more to follow. At 138m tall, they are as big as the London Eye. Responsible for manufacturing and delivery is ZPMC, Chinese company based in Shanghai. As cargo ships get bigger to transport as much cargo as possible, crane size increase has to follow. Smaller cranes are unable to load and unload such huge ships. The state-of-the-art cranes have some unique features other than their size. They can serve even biggest ships and lift enormous containers, as well as lifting many at a time. They are also more wind resilient.

The port in its current shape is still relatively new. Therefore it faces challenges, such as Asian import, but the future looks very bright and promising. More investments are in the process. They will help expand infrastructure to make sure the UK is able to receive and serve biggest cargo vessels on water.

SEE ALSO: Recent Developments in Conveyors

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