Grocery giant Tesco has become the first retailer to transport wine by canal in the UK, in a bid to reduce carbon emissions.
Using Britain’s Manchester Ship Canal, opened in 1894, the supermarket has started shipping New World wine deliveries by barge from Liverpool to Manchester. The maiden voyage was October 18.
‘Until now, the wine has landed in Liverpool and has been driven to Tesco’s bottlers in Salford,’ John Rutherford, Manchester Ship Canal Port facilities manager, told decanter.com.
‘They’ll now use the canal three times a week, replacing a 40-mile lorry journey.’
The barges typically will carry 600,000l of wine.
Tesco has calculated that this will eliminate the need for 50 lorries per week – which travel 1.1m kilometres per year –cutting the associated carbon emissions by up to 80%.
Francis Power, director of Sea and Water, which promotes freight transport via the nation’s waterways, said that Tesco is the first company to use inland waterways to move bulk wine in this manner.
‘One of the perceptions of water is that it’s slow, and there’s no question a lorry can go faster than a barge,’ he said.
‘But 96% of goods by volume, and 75% by value arrive in the UK by water already. There’s no reason goods should not finish their voyage by water too.’
Power said UK retailer Sainsbury’s had also tested the waters last winter by racing barges against lorries from Westminster Bridge to its distribution centre in Brentford, on the Grand Union canal.
‘The barges beat the lorries four out of five times,’ he said. ‘But Sainsbury’s got to the point where the feasibility of going further meant a significant investment.’
Power said he hoped that following Tesco’s example, other companies might proceed with plans to ship more freight by water.
‘This island is pretty crowded,’ he said. ‘Anything that can reduce road congestion will decrease not only carbon emissions but also stress.’
Written by Maggie Rosen