The 23rd July 2014 started out a routine enough day with a few ships heading up and down the Thames.
Then late morning the Wilson Bilbao was noted heading up river – nothing unusual as other Wilson Shipping vessels had visited in the past.
However, today was different, as rather than heading up river through Gallions Reach the Wilson Bilbao was on the wrong side of the river and was starting to turn to starboard.
This was a rare and historic event – cargo operations returned to London’s Royal Docks – for the first time in many years, if not decades.
The result of a collaborative effort that saw the Royal Docks Management Authority, 3 ship operators, a port handling company and a construction company (amongst others) working together to support building projects in London.
Wilson Bilbao arrived at the King George V lock first with a load of aggregates which were off-loaded on to the dock side using a grab crane – I’m guessing over 1000 tons worth – which took about 3 hours.
Later during the afternoon the London based Yasam Rose arrived and whilst she locked in the Wilson Bilbao self-manoeuvred across to the other side of the lock to then allow Yasam Rose to take her place next to the pile of aggregates.
Once alongside the loading commenced. Being a smaller ship the Yasam Rose had to make two trips in order to move the entire load to it’s final destination of Battersea.
As a result of this operation 100s of lorry journeys across London were prevented and the docks once again did what they were designed and built to do – handle cargo – perhaps a mere fraction of the tonnage of it’s heyday but great to see two working cargo ships in the Royal Docks.
Not sure if this was a one-off venture or a proof of concept – hopefully the latter as given that London, and specifically the Royal Docks, will continue to see building projects that need supplies it would seem that a demand exists – whether if is financially viable and a practical solution remains to be seen.
Some more pictures can be seen here.