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Keeping lorries off the roads

Why contractors should use rivers more.

The limiting factors on developing rivers as an exciting, environmentally friendly and sustainable mode of transport are imagination, early commitment to river use by planners and developers, training of staff and a lack of infrastructure on the rivers.

The imagination needed to use river transport and the early commitment to its use will flow from the successful use of river transport on an increasing number of projects.

The provision of training to provide capable crews and the provision of infrastructure to keep up with demand is the responsibility of the port authorities, Marine & Coastguard Agency and the operators. GPS Marine is an active supporter of the Thames Training Alliance and has been committed to staff training for many years. Meanwhile, a joint investment of £1.2M by GPS Marine and Ingrebourne Valley has seen two new temporary berths created in August 2013 at the Goshems Farm land restoration scheme at East Tilbury, operated by Ingrebourne Valley and served exclusively by spoil delivered by tugs and barges from the GPS Marine fleet.

Suited to barge transport

The commodities that are best suited to barge transport are generally those that have few inherent vices and, therefore, spoil, aggregates, heavy and bulky items such as tunnel ring segments and containerised goods lend themselves well to barge transport. For instance, one barge consignment of tunnel ring segments for Crossrail’s eastern running tunnels typically comprises 44 complete rings with a total weight of almost 1,150t. A round trip for this one barge removes 88 articulated lorry movements from the roads between the segment factory in Chatham Docks and the tunnel drive site at Limmo Peninsula at Canning Town in East London. Similarly, a single round voyage with a 1,900t barge loaded with spoil at the Victoria deep water terminal at the southern portal of the Blackwall Tunnel and transported to East Tilbury in Essex removes 200 tipper movements from the roads between those two locations.

GPS Marine is engaged in the transport of spoil, concrete aggregates and tunnel lining ring segments by barge on the rivers Thames and Medway.

This business has developed significantly over recent years as construction companies and developers have started to understand that river transport is viable, cost effective, sustainableand reliable.

Planners too are starting to understand that major projects do not necessarily have to create the inconvenience and traffic chaos for people living and working in the environs of major construction sites because the water transport option can readily dramatically reduce HGV movements to and from sites.

At the time of writing GPS Marine is transporting in excess of 50,000t of cargo on the rivers Thames and Medway per week, keeping in the region of 5,500 lorry movements off the road in the capital and around the south east of England. Cargoes are carried in barges of between 700 and 1900t capacity towed or pushed by tugs of between 600bhp and 1,100bhp.

  • John Spencer is managing director of GPS Marine Contracts

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