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Estuary Envoy’s Letters from America

16th February 2022

Hi y’all!

I’m in the States on holiday having some long awaited catching up with family. And in some new cities too which is great!

But you know as your Envoy, I never really sleep, so have been working a bit over here too, to see how we might work with the genuinely fabulous City of Chicago to make lots of new great stuff happen…

I have been enjoying the beauty that is Chicago. Its streets, its buildings, its energy, its everything that is so so good. From the Chicago River that runs through out into that great Lake Michigan, this really is a place that takes your breath away.

Kate Willard OBE shaking hands with Captain Lee from Wendella boat company that does tours of the river in Chicago

My good friend, Captain Lee of Wendella boat company

It’s cold (like proper minus 9 type cold – you can see the river is partially frozen) but I have been enjoying a typically warm American welcome. Captain Lee (pictured below) of Wendella, a great Chicago river family company, has been showing us the city’s sights and sites from the boat. If you are visiting, I highly recommend hopping on for a tour. A great way to see Chicago, a bit like our Estuary, is from the river…

Interestingly, they don’t use the river as much as I think they could over here, there is certainly untapped potential – like with us at home.  This has already led us to some interesting conversations here about how we might link up with some Chicago businesses to share thoughts about waterborne freight. A great start for our ‘Global Works’ programme of making great stuff happen – but this time on an international canvas!


Chicago’s green city ambition is all that jazz

On land I was please to see the city’s clean air hybrid buses (pictured) carrying people around the City.

One of Chicago's hybrid buses on one of the city's main streets

One of Chicago’s hybrid buses.

Chicago is implementing many initiatives to become one of the greenest cities in the world. As well as these hybrid buses the city launched a trial of prototype electric buses in April 2021 with a view to having a 100% electric fleet by 2040. Alongside this Chicago is converting to more energy-efficient lighting, such as LED or solar powered lights in vehicles and facilities whenever possible; and recycling refuse and vehicle materials (i.e. plastics, metals, oil, lubricants, anti-freeze and batteries).

Chicago: Nowadays is a little bit a good

Like the Thames Estuary the river here can play a much more important role in the life on either side of its banks. I was impressed to see vessels being used to move huge amounts of aggregate through the city. And to learn about the city’s exciting growth and projects such as Lincoln Yards that will reshape over 50 acres of former industrial land and include over 11 acres of beautiful park space.

Large vessel on Chicago River being used to move aggregates in the city.

The river is an important mean of moving freight here too.

All I care about: Making best use of the river

The important role of the river is, of course, at the fore of my mind as we launched our own report, co-commissioned with the Port of London Authority (PLA), looking into the feasibility of making better use of the River Thames for moving light freight.

In the Estuary, businesses working in the field have already begun talking to us and I am delighted that so many who have attended our initial roundtable discussion or who have simply read the report have come forward and shown such enthusiasm for making deliveries greener. If you know me, you know that I am a huge proponent of good, green growth, and I love it when I see so many businesses excited about more sustainable models for doing business.

Making this the greenest Estuary – I can’t do it alone

We’re going to make our Estuary the greenest Estuary on the planet and I am very excited that there are businesses in the UK and abroad who want to help us achieve that.

How do I feel as I now head to Detroit? I feel ‘Global Works’ works. And you know what, it’s my kind of town Chicago is… Captain Lee, I’ll be back!

Kate Willard OBE and Captain Lee from Wendella boat tour company smiling with thumbs up





Signing off for now,


Read about my meetings in Detroit.