Lewis Brown of Thames Shipping was invited to the London & Home Counties Branch during November 2014 to deliver a presentation on “The Thames – a working river”.
Starting as an apprentice for JJ Prior in 2004, Lewis gave a detailed and interesting account of his experiences from his 10-year career on the Thames, which has led him to the position of Operations Director for Thames Shipping.
The origins of JJ Prior, from their early days of shipping from the River Colne in Fingeringhoe to one of their 5 wharves in London was discussed, including their protected wharf in Greenwich.
Lewis reflected on his time aboard “The Gabriella” which would routinely load 240 tonnes of material from Northfleet into central London, then returning with the outgoing tide.
Moving on from his experience on aggregate barges, Lewis went on to captain passenger barges, routinely carrying up to 220 tourists and commuters up and down the Thames. This method of commuting is set to rise from current numbers of 4-6 million people a year to 11 million in 2020, which is a great resource for reducing the strain on the traditional transportation network around London.
Creating a new business plan of using larger barges to transport materials from the Essex/Kent wharves into Central London resulted in the formation of Thames Shipping and acquisition of the Yasam Rose, with its 1200tn capacity per tide compared to the JJ Prior 240tn barges.
Lewis has gone onto negotiate the increased use of barges in transporting materials out of building projects, serving as an additional benefit of reducing the congestion on the roads in London. One of the projects includes the Thames Tideway Tunnel, which will see the excavation of a tunnel under the Thames from Acton to Abbey Mills Pumping Station running 72m below the surface, the circumference being equal to the height of three double decker buses.
In 2013, 55 million tonnes of untreated waste entered the Thames; the creation of this tunnel will assist with the removal of sewage from the capital, whilst also preventing untreated waste entering the river when experiencing high water situations.
Set to commence in 2017, the tunnel boring machines will create 4.2 million tonnes of excavated material needing to be removed from the city by river, reducing the lorry movements in the city from 425,000 to 163,000, massively avoiding the strain on the road infrastructure.
In concluding, Lewis explained another project he had been involved in as part of Thames shipping. The focus on this is to provide more rounded apprenticeships giving a wider expanse of experience and led to the creation of the Thames Training Alliance, which will assist in meeting the need for 200 new boat master licence holders by 2026.
After a very detailed and informative presentation from Lewis Brown, a few questions were asked regarding the future of the river and all answers were showing that working traffic is sure to increase in the future, making the Thames a vital transport link through London, for tourists, commuters and businesses alike.