I have already covered the bulk transportation of aggregates along the Thames and referred to the fact that the Thames is still a busy waterway for a variety of cargos that are moved by tug and barge.
However, there remains one operational import/export wharf on the Thames at Silvertown that is a reminder of activities that once were commonplace at the many docks and wharves along the middle Thames.
The Thames Refinery wharf at Silvertown is operated by Tate & Lyle Sugars and consists of three berths on the Northern bank of the Thames between the Thames Barrier and the Woolwich Ferry.
Not unsurprisingly, given its owner, the main use of the wharf is for the import of raw sugar cane and the subsequent export of the finished products. The wharf has also been used for the export of other items such as scrap metal, amongst others.
The interest, from a shipping point of view, is that depth of the Thames is such that it enables some very large trans-oceanic cargo vessels to make port calls – as an example the Force Ranger weighs in at nearly 46000t – which dwarf the local based vessels and make for an impressive sight as they come through Gallions Reach.
I hope that the activity of the Thames Refinery and the attendant visits of the bulk cargo vessels continue for many years to come, both for the economic benefits to London but also in terms of maintaining the tradition of the use of the middle Thames for import and export activities. Unfortunately the future is uncertain – see here for details.
Click here for more pictures of bulk carriers.