The 'free water clause' was also hurting the dock companies. Less than a fifth of goods unloaded in the docks were going on to the quayside and paying charges to the dock companies.
Most of the goods went into lighters and were transferred to the wharves or directly to customers. The large number of lighters added greatly to the congestion in the river. It was also a slow way of moving goods and held up deliveries.
At the same time, the increase in the size and draught of ocean-going ships meant urgent improvements were needed in the river and in the docks.
The main river channel was not deep enough and large ships had great difficulty moving in the Thames. Unfortunately, the sharing of authority among several organisations prevented these changes from happening.