EXTRACT: “…the Thurrock site was formerly a Shell oil refinery that ceased production in 1999. Shell has spent £50m clearing the site and will be a partner in the port project.
Sunday August 13, 2006
The government is set to give the go-ahead to a £1.5bn new port east of London in a move that will help the UK compete with Rotterdam as a vital European distribution hub.
The port in Thurrock, Essex, known as London Gateway, will be capable of handling the largest deep-sea container ships. The government last week wrote to the site’s owner, Dubai Port World, controlled by the Middle East state, confirming its intention to give the green light to the project. A final decision is expected to be made in 10 weeks.
For months, speculation has been building that the government had cooled on the prospect of a port in Thurrock, as it would require a huge investment in supporting infrastructure and reclamation of land. It is understood that DPW was considering abandoning the project in protest at how long the government was taking in deciding whether it would get planning consent. But the likely approval for the port will be a huge boost to DPW, who inherited the site after it bought P&O for £3.3bn last March.
The government’s enthusiasm for the project will also be a lift to the Thames Gateway regeneration project – an 80-mile ribbon development stretching from London to the sea.
The port should become a huge employment driver. DPW, which will invest £1.5bn in the 1,500-acre brownfield site, said 16,500 new jobs will be created as a result of the project. The port could be operational by 2010. DPW’s proposals include a 2,300-metre container quay. The site will also contain business units and distribution warehouses.
A green light for London Gateway will now mean that many housing projects previously on hold are more likely to come to fruition.
Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, DPW chairman, said: ‘This is important news and we are delighted with the UK government’s continued support.’
Simon Moore, chief executive of London Gateway, said: ‘The development of London Gateway will meet an identified national need and allow the UK to continue to attract the largest vessels in the world, keeping the UK directly connected to global trading partners.’
The decision will also make politicians more receptive to the putative £13bn Crossrail train project linking Heathrow, the City and Canary Wharf with Essex and Kent.
But the decision could harm rival PD Ports’ plans for a £300m deep-water container terminal of its own on Teesside under the ‘Northern Gateway’ banner, which the company claims will create 5,000 jobs.
The government is currently embarking on a ports review covering England, Wales and Northern Ireland, with Scottish ports policy to be considered separately by the Scottish executive. DPW is among the world’s top three marine terminal operators, and the Thurrock site was formerly a Shell oil refinery that ceased production in 1999. Shell has spent £50m clearing the site and will be a partner in the port project.
The site has been used as a port since the 16th century and has two miles of river frontage.