According to the BBC News, the MOL Caledon was the first vessel to dock at the UK's newest container port on November 7, 2013. Hailing from South Africa, the 58,000 ton container ship carried fruit, automotive parts and wine.
The new facility is located on the north shore of the Thames Estuary in Thurrock, Essex at the site of a former Shell oil refinery and cost £1.5 billion ($2.4 billion) to build. It is only 32 km (20 miles) from London. The port is owned by DP World, one of the largest marine terminal operators in the world and based in Dubai. London Gateway is the first major port to be built in Europe in the last 25 years.
Planning for the port began 14 years ago and construction began in 2010.
DP World describes the development as “combining the UK's newest deep-sea container port with Europe's largest logistics park.” When it is completed, London Gateway will be able to process 3.5 million containers annually and will employ 27,000 at the 1,500 acre port and logistics park. It is also expected to contribute £2.4 billion a year to the UK economy.
A BBC News article indicates that, initially, London Gateway will be able to handle 1.6 million standard containers a year, ramping up over time. The MOL Caledon docked at the first deep-water berth to be activated. Two more will follow in April 2014 and early 2015, with the remaining three to be completed as the market demands. The Journal of Commerce also reports that this berth is capable of handling the largest 18,000 TEU container ships. These ultra-large container ships can be 400 meters long.
Dredging Today.com reports that, when finalized, the port's six berths will have a total of 24 state-of-the-art quay cranes 137 meters high, weighing 2,000 tons each at a cost of £9 million each. 30% of the containers will use rail and the new port is able to handle the longest trains in the UK. DB Schenker Rail UK and Freightliner both provide services to London Gateway. The Telegraph pointed out that the dredging of 100 km of estuary and the North Sea involved dealing with a dozen submerged ships, 150 wartime bombs and a German bomber plane.
The project is being praised as good for the environment since 2,000 trucks a day will have significantly shorter journeys to bring goods to the adjacent distribution center, saving an estimated 148,000 tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere per day. The 9 million square foot logistics depot is being built on long vacant land formerly owned by P&O Ports. Marks & Spencer and Uniserve logistics group announced that they will base themselves in the park, according to The Telegraph.
At this writing, Journal of Commerce reports that only one customer has been signed up to use the new port so far – the Southern Africa Europe Container Service. The SAECS is operated by Safmarine, Maersk Line, Deutsche Afrika Linien and Mitsui O.S.K. Lines. SAECS formerly used the London Container Terminal-Tilbury. The Telegraph also states that Felixstowe and Southampton are London Gateway's major competitors with only three deep-water berths in total.
With relatively flat traffic growth in this sector, analysts will be watching the success London Gateway may have in attracting additional users as well as an anchor customer for its new port.