Threat to barges on river with closure of Hull's last oilseed crushing plant

Hull’s last oil crushing plant is to close, bringing to an end centuries of seedcrushing in the city and threatening the demise of freight barge traffic on the river.

Mainmast’s Tanker Barge Swinderby loaded with 450 tonnes of edible oils from Cargill's River Hull plant, approaching Drypool Bridge, en route to King George Dock, Hull Picture: Dan Longbottom
Mainmast’s Tanker Barge Swinderby loaded with 450 tonnes of edible oils from Cargill's River Hull plant, approaching Drypool Bridge, en route to King George Dock, Hull Picture: Dan Longbottom

Cargill, America’s largest privately-owned company, which operates a site including the distinctive 1912 built Isis Oil Mills off Stoneferry, has announced it will shut in December, with the loss of 36 jobs, due to “market conditions”.

Cargill, has been running the site since 1985, which can take up to 750 tonnes of rapeseed and specialty crops a day, which are then crushed to extract crude oil and meal.

The closure means there will be just three processing sites left in the UK – Liverpool, where Cargill has separate soybean and rapeseed crushes and refineries, Erith, on the Thames near London, home to the country’s largest producer of retail oils, owned by Princes Ltd and ADM, and a smaller site in Warwickshire.

Isis Oil Mills off Stoneferry, Hull Picture: Google Maps

In a statement to Farmers Weekly, Cargills said: “We can confirm Cargill has announced its intention to close its crush facility in Hull, UK, due to current market conditions.

“This would impact 36 positions effective end of December 2022. We are working closely with impacted employees and will be providing support throughout the transition.”

It is a further blow for the city following the news that healthcare firm Smith & Nephew will leave for Melton, eight miles away, after more than 160 years in Hull.

The move puts a questionmark over the future of barge traffic on the River Hull, which has been impacted by a lack of council investment in recent years.

Mainmast, whose green and yellow barges carry the oil to the docks and to the Croda processing site on Oak Road – now operated by Cargill – is one of only two barge operators working the river. Cargills is also one of the last working quaysides.

Annually Mainmast’s two barges move around 130,000 tonnes – equivalent to taking more than 9,000 HGV journeys off the roads.

Director Andy Sanders, whose father was director in charge when Cargills was Croda Premier Oils, said they’d received the news with “great shock and sadness”.

He said: “As a company we will look to safeguard the jobs of our barge crews both in exploring new opportunities for movement of product on inland waterways and in maintaining our unaffected barging operations moving product between Hull Docks and Rotherham.

“We will also continue working with Cargill companies within the Liverpool Dock system.

“On a personal front I have always been proud of our involvement in two very traditional Hull industries.

“I started my working career 40 years ago at what was at the time Croda Premier Oils and witnessed the thriving river trade with barges delivering product to numerous companies along the river.

“I found myself all these years later still serving this industry and being one of the last barge companies with regular movements in the river.

"The closure of the Hull crushing plant may sadly bring end to both of these industries on the River Hull.

“We will be working with Cargill over coming months to try and ensure that we assist their operation over its final months and will continue to explore whether there is a future for any barging within their changing distribution logistics in Hull.”