Operating a statutory body in a commercial environment
A Port of London Authority case study

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Page 4: Becoming competitive

Port Of London Authority 4 Image 8The river is both a national asset and a busy centre of commerce. Riverside land is in great demand for both residential and industrial use. Within this complicated juggling act, the PLA remains an independent statutory body operating in a fiercely competitive environment.


One of the PLA’s major functions is to promote the Port of London to the world. It is, in many ways, an unusual brief, with so many interests that need to be considered when formulating the marketing strategy. The port currently handles over 55 million tonnes of cargo a year, ranging from crude oil and bulks, paper, motor vehicles and steel. Whilst the responsibility for clinching the actual deals with the shipping companies remains in the hands of the private wharf and terminal operators within the port, the PLA has an important role to play.

Promotion is crucial in attracting potential customers. In 1997, it mounted the 20th World Ports Conference, which attracted over 700 senior executives and 250 partners from port communities around the world.

The PLA also takes part in a number of overseas trade missions, attends exhibitions, seminars and conferences, meets and entertains customers. It developed a CD ROM and Internet web site to provide an interactive directory of facilities and services available within the Port. The PLA aims to offer the most competitive rates as possible for conservancy and pilotage. In fact, these charges have been held constant or reduced consistently over the last few years. It also acts to make the river as safe for navigation as possible.

Improving operations

In business, it is important to be as efficient as possible. In order to provide customers with goods and services, organisations frequently depend on the supply chain to provide them with key advantages over competitors. The introduction of industrial techniques such as Just in Time and lean production have pushed tighter stock control down the supply chain.

Just in Time is no longer perceived as an option for many manufacturers, it is essential to remaining competitive. Ports can no longer view themselves simply as the interface between the sea and the land. They must realise they are an essential part of the logistics surrounding the movement of goods throughout the supply chain. A port is only as good as the services it can provide. As markets become more competitive, manufacturers look to make cost savings in every area, including transportation.

'The trading scene, globally, is continually changing. At the same time, more pressure is being exerted to make all sectors of the supply chain more competitive', says Geoff Adam, the PLA Head of Port Promotion.

Port of London Authority | Operating a statutory body in a commercial environment