Sainsbury’s trials food deliveries on the Thames

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Sainsbury’s has been working with Port of London Authority to trial delivering food to Sainsbury’s stores in London by river.
The journey would mean that once food is despatched by Sainsbury’s distribution centre in South East London, the day’s delivery for the store would be shipped on the Thames by barge, rather than by road, arriving in close proximity to the west London store. If rolled out to stores in the same area, this could save 350,000 road kilometres every year.
Roger Burnley, supply chain director, Sainsbury’s, said: “The trial, in conjunction with the Port of London Authority was a success, and proved there are alternatives for us to be more efficient as a business, environmentally sustainable, and cause less congestion on busy London roads. But it’s interesting that one of the ways we could do this is by revisiting how we operated when we set up shop almost 140 years ago. It’s in our heritage to manage and reduce our environmental impact, and using the Thames is an extremely efficient way of doing this.”
The trial, which took place in February, convinced Sainsbury’s that the movement of goods on the river Thames between distribution centre and stores, is a viable option provided the commercial riverside operations can be established. Sainsbury’s is committed to working with partners to encourage the development of the wharf infrastructure further.
Sea and Water, the promotional body for water-freight transport in Britain, acted as both a catalyst and conduit, setting up the arrangements between Sainsbury’s and the suppliers of water-freight services.
Director Francis Power said that the trial demystified the notion that water freight is slow. A concern that was highlighted in Sea and Water’s research published earlier this year whereby it found that 92 per cent of the businesses recipients ranked reliability of the transport mode as more important than transport costs (70 per cent). The survey identified that according to the freight users the biggest barrier to taking up water freight was the speed of delivery and its effect on just-in-time practices.
“We are hopeful that the retail sector will build on their position experience by increasing the use of water transport within its supply chain. Sea and Water is working hard behind the scenes to influence government officials, policy makers and other large corporates to encourage the development of new container-handling terminals on the river Thames that would enable more corporates to use the river for the transport of their goods.”

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