Forth Ports has launched an unaccompanied freight ferry terminal at Tilbury2 following a successful trial earlier this month.

The 500,000-unit freight-only facility terminal uses a truck driver-free operation into the UK which port authorities say will help reduce the spread of Covid-19.

The service will operate in partnership with P&O Ferries. The first ship to use the fully operational terminal was P&O’s chartered freight ferry the Norstream.

The terminal will import and export containers to and from continental Europe on P&O’s Tilbury-Zeebrugge freight route.

The new ro-ro terminal is part of a £250 million investment by owner, Forth Ports, to create Tilbury2.

Tilbury2, which is at the former Tilbury Power Station site on the north bank of the River Thames, will be fully operational later this year.

The port is set to be the UK’s largest unaccompanied freight ferry port and the country’s biggest construction processing hub.

The terminal has trusted trader Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) accreditation and offers the latest booking and border technology, such as number plate recognition, in preparation for Brexit.

Charles Hammond, Forth Ports group chief executive, said the port will help the UK’s economic recovery as it emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Paul Dale, asset and site director at the Port of Tilbury, added that the switch to a river berth will provide significant growth opportunities.

“P&O can bring in larger vessels, deliver faster vessel turnaround times and – most importantly – get containers and trailers onto an inland barge or the motorway network in under an hour,” he said.

Janette Bell, P&O Ferries chief executive, said: “This terminal will significantly increase the speed of our services and improve access to the M25 for our customers who carry important consumer and industry goods, such as detergents and pharmaceuticals, building materials and fertiliser, wine and beer and cosmetics.

"We look forward to developing all of the opportunities this terminal has to offer for our customers.”