An NHS trust has become the first in the country to pilot a daily riverboat delivery service as part of plans to reduce its carbon footprint.

Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust has teamed up with CEVA Logistics, Absolutely and Livett’s Group to trial the service.

If the proof-of-concept pilot is successful, the service will operate on a larger scale, removing trucks from the capital’s roads while providing a reliable delivery route into London during the day. The Trust’s three delivery trucks currently travel around 1,500 miles per week. For each truck removed from the road, approximately 708 kgs of CO2 could be saved per week.

The service would help Guy’s and St Thomas’ work towards its aim of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2030 and support the Mayor of London’s aim to reduce the number of lorries and vans entering central London in the morning peak by 10% by 2026.

David Lawson, Chief Procurement Officer at Guy’s and St Thomas’, said: “The riverboat pilot forms a key part in our ambition to remove over 40,000 truck deliveries from central London roads each year. We also want to encourage and support other organisations to adopt the use of zero emission delivery models to improve air quality for the communities that we serve.”

The riverboat pilot service will run twice a day, five days a week. Parcels will be loaded onto the boat at Dartford International Ferry Terminal in Kent, before making the journey to Butler’s Wharf Pier in London. The parcels, which include clinical supplies for operating theatres, will then be transported by Absolutely, the final mile delivery partner, on electric cargo bikes to Guy’s Hospital.

Stuart Godman, CEO at Absolutely, said: “We are very proud to have been chosen as the final mile delivery partner. As a business, we want to build on our reputation as a true ambassador for carbon neutrality. Significant partnerships, like this, provide the opportunity to utilise our expanding fleet of Electric Cargo Bikes and EV’s and allow us to continue to provide an excellent service, in a more sustainable way, across London.”

The three-month pilot launches on Clean Air Day on Thursday 17 June. Earlier this month Guy’s and St Thomas’ unveiled its sustainability strategy which sets out a clear path towards more sustainable healthcare for the next 10 years. The pilot is just one of the initiatives that the Trust has introduced to help reduce its carbon footprint and to become more sustainable.

In 2019, the Trust worked with CEVA Logistics to open a consolidation supply chain hub in Dartford close to the M25, which has reduced the number of daily truck deliveries onto the hospital sites by 90%. The Trust is also planning to introduce a fleet of three large electric trucks to deliver consolidated deliveries from the supply chain hub.

This initiative followed the switch to Cargo Bikes when transporting blood and tumours for testing between Guy’s Hospital and St Thomas’ Hospital, which replaced vans and motorbikes.

Chris Walton, Managing Director UK and Ireland at CEVA Logistics, said: “The riverboat trial firmly supports our commitment to sustainable and ethical supply chains. As part of what we call responsive logistics, we constantly look for smart, alternative solutions to improve our carbon footprint and reduce noise and air pollution, specifically when operating in urban areas. As part of our global FORPATIENTS strategy for healthcare customers, we offer flexible end-to-end logistics solutions that place the patient at the centre of the supply chain.”

Edward Livett, Director of Livett’s Group, said: “We are very excited and proud to be a part of this trial as it is a clear example of positive use of the River Thames, something we are constantly striving for. Livett’s specialise in river logistics and as a Group have assets from Putney down to Gravesend which we are confident will help make this trial an absolute success. We look forward to helping freight back onto the river and proving it to be an environmentally sustainable and safe solution.”

James Trimmer, planning & environment director at the Port of London Authority, said: “This innovative scheme is another great example of the river’s potential as a green superhighway. It’s a win-win situation; the tidal Thames can help rebuild the economy post the pandemic and both reduce carbon emissions and air pollution in the capital.”