Heathrow-based food logistics specialist PML unveiled plans for a satellite operation in Kent after revealing in March it was facing ‘crippling’ disruptions due to London’s new emissions rules.
The company has invested Â£ 3.5million in the purchase and renovation of the former 100,000 square foot warehouse of basket supplier Spicers of Hythe in Lympne, Kent, just two miles from the M20 and 15 miles from the port of Dover.
Once an initial 16-week renovation phase has taken place, the site will become a 24/7 operation, handling daily shipments of fruits, vegetables, meat, fish and flowers for packaging, loading and unloading for distribution to mults.
A second phase, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2022, will add ambient freight capacity. In total, around 30% of PML’s business would ultimately be transferred to the new Kent facility, creating 40 to 50 new jobs for the region.
Managing Director Mike Parr said his company was forced to relocate by London’s new low emissions and Brexit rules, adding that PML would seek border checkpoint status for the warehouse ahead of the introduction import controls in January 2022.
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âThe reasons we are opening in Kent are 1) to mitigate [the need for] vehicles need to enter the low emission zone and 2) it’s very close to Dover so we can actually clear the trucks at the Kent facility and send them wherever they need to go in the UK â, a- he declared.
âIn addition to its proximity to ports and Heathrow, we expect transport drivers will also appreciate the efficient and transparent service we will be able to provide, allowing them to leave the trailer behind while they take a break, as opposed to sitting in a queue worrying about long delays that could have a serious impact on the condition of their perishable cargo. “
Parr said the warehouse could accommodate up to 80 trailers once it is fully operational.
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When asked if this was the beginning of the end for PML’s headquarters at Heathrow, Parr added that he would continue to operate for goods entering and leaving the airport. He said the airport was still at 60% to 70% of its food capacity before the pandemic due to a lack of air passenger services.
This comes after the Low Emission Zone standards came into effect by the Mayor of London in March.
The rules require that trucks or vans weighing more than 3.5 tonnes meet Euro VI emissions standards in the Greater London area. Heavy goods vehicles not meeting the standards are subject to a daily charge of up to Â£ 300.
According to PML, the move saw European carriers halt deliveries to PML’s headquarters at Heathrow because many of them fell below standards.
This problem has also been reported by other food companies operating in the city.
âSome carriers will deliver to our depots outside of London but refuse to come to London due to the new emissions rules,â said Jason Tanner, CEO and co-founder of New Covent Garden-based Menu Partners.
Tanner added that London’s Direct Vision standard also discouraged European carriers from entering the capital, as it meant large trucks either had to be fitted with surround cameras or “risked facing substantial fines.” He said that many European vehicles did not carry such characteristics.
In response, a spokesperson for London Mayor Sadiq Khan called toxic air pollution a “national public health crisis” and said Khan had established a fund to help Londoners scrapped polluting vehicles. However, they did not say whether this support extended to foreign carriers who had previously entered London frequently.
“Sadiq is proud to be a pro-business mayor, and CBI research has shown that cleaner air could boost the UK economy by Â£ 1.6bn a year, of which nearly Â£ 500m pounds sterling per year for the local London economy, âthey said.
“The government should match the Â£ 52million the mayor spent in London to help people, charities and businesses replace their polluting vehicles with greener ones.”
Meanwhile, PML said it had not been affected by driver shortages faced by transport operators and other logistics providers, although Parr said having external carriers to work at the moment was “practically impossible”.