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Port of London Authority COVID-19 Response


At the height of the COVID-19 lockdown, the team at the Port of London Authority worked to ensure that vital supplies of fuel, food and medicine continued to reach petrol stations, supermarkets and pharmacies in London and beyond.

At the Port of London Authority (PLA) we are doing all we can to minimise the impact of COVID-19 on our operations, so that essential fuel, food and other necessities continue to be available to families across London, the south east and more widely.

Ensuring the health and wellbeing of our teams is our primary concern and doing so is enabling us to continue delivering our essential services. The principal operational steps we have taken to minimise the risk of the virus spreading to PLA employees include:

  • the closure of our main port control centre and navigation centre at the Thames Barrier to non-essential visitors;
  • revised working procedures to minimise pilots’ contact with other staff;
  • checks to ensure vessels entering the port have submitted health declarations;
  • further segregation for other key groups including boat crews, the navigation systems team, marine services personnel, our civil engineers and marine engineers; 
  • additional cleaning of handrail, doors, shared equipment and other shared space; 
  • appropriate arrangements for staff who fall into the identified vulnerable groups.
  • adopting balanced working patterns for support services such as legal and finance, with teams splitting office and home working on a rota basis

Our Executive Committee is meeting regularly (using technology so this can be done remotely) to monitor and adjust our response to the developing situation.

The Port of London is one of the two largest ports in the UK by tonnage of goods handled. The services we provide are a key part of many supply chains, playing a vital role in all our daily lives. We will take further steps as the situation evolves to sustain our essential services, working closely with our customers, the UK Government, London Port Health Authority and other key stakeholders.

In line with Government guidelines, all large stakeholder events we had planned have been cancelled or postponed. We will be using online channels to maintain dialogue, and share information, with stakeholders in the meantime.

COVID-19 secure operations

After new Government guidance was released in the week beginning 11 May we completed a detailed Risk Assessment and a comprehensive check to ensure that our operations are COVID-19 secure. Our updated Risk Assessment was posted ahead of further Government guidance in early August.

Use these links to see the:

Learn more about the London Port Health Authority's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Latest Updates

24 FebruaryIn this week's Tidal Thames NewsOur 2021 environment webinars (16-18 March); the work of London Titan on the Thames; along with a rap intervention by Tideway; and the Environment Agency's estuary plan.

17 FebruaryIn this week's Tidal Thames NewsBattling the elements to #keeptradeflowing; our public meeting drew a crowd online; an update to the General Directions for Navigation in the #PortofLondon; and an innovative dredger makes its debut on the river.

10 FebruaryIn this week's Tidal Thames NewsMeet the four new recruits joining the PLA to help #keeptradeflowing; We highlight the work of our current and former apprentices during #NationalApprenticeshipWeek; and update on the Thames Freeport bid.

4 FebruaryIn this week's Tidal Thames News#TimetoTalkDay; a big upgrade at our Barrier Gardens Pier; our London Titan assists Polla Rose; new roles for young people via the Kickstart programme.

27 JanuaryIn this week's Tidal Thames NewsThe growing backing for a Thames Freeport; new faces joining the PLA; a new climate case study; BIMCO's latest video highlighting the important role the port industry has played during the pandemic.

20 JanuaryIn this week's Tidal Thames NewsPinns Wharf back in operation; our first public meeting of the year; new tug capacity set to arrive on the Thames; the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham’s backing for the Thames Freeport bid.

13 JanuaryIn this week's Tidal Thames NewsAn amazing view at DP World London Gateway; New ships to look out for on the Thames in 2021; A film of the first pilotage act of the year; An online exhibition capturing life at sea.

7 JanuaryIn this week's Tidal Thames NewsWhat the lockdown means for the river; two new Channel 5 shows feature the Thames; how the river is playing a role in Fulham FC Official's stand development; the passing of two well-known members of the Thames community.

22 DecemberIn this week's Tidal Thames NewsResilient Thames freight ports continue to operate with daily sailings, Government funding for new and enlarged border infrastructure and support for seafarers -- the hidden heroes of 2020.

16 DecemberIn this week's Tidal Thames NewsThe potential effects of the Brexit transition on the Port of London, the PLA staff who are sacrificing their Christmas festivities to keep trade flowing and how Santa was spotted aboard one of our pilot cutters.

8 DecemberIn this week's Tidal Thames NewsHow commercial operators can bid for new Cross River Partnership funds to reduce emissions from their fleets, a report on essential maintenance on one of the PLA’s radar antennae and remembering Francis Spencer.

1 DecemberIn this week's Tidal Thames NewsOur £3 million investment in our pilots and IT systems; celebrate the resumption of Thames passenger operations as lockdown ends; a milestone for Tideway; and note the Boat Races' temporary home for 2021.

26 NovemberIn this week's Tidal Thames NewsThe Thames Estuary Growth Board’s Hydrogen Summit, annual maintenance work at Richmond Lock & Weir and a trans-Atlantic Mayflower celebration.

18 NovemberIn this week's Tidal Thames NewsThe launch of formal bidding for Freeports, drydocking for Tarmac's dredger City of London, the Lord Mayor’s Show’s link to the Thames and the annual draw off at Richmond Lock & Weir is drawing searchers to the foreshore.

12 NovemberIn this week's Tidal Thames NewsWe cover our #PledgetoNetZero by 2040; the return of filming and events to the river; a request for recreational users to be cautious if going afloat; and Cory Riverside Energy’s unique link to service.

5 NovemberIn this week's Tidal Thames NewsWe focus on port and river operations as tighter COVID-19 restrictions come into place; launch of new Safer Riverside development guidance; the naming of a new Cory Energy barge; and a Thames Skills Academy survey.

30 OctoberIn this week's Tidal Thames NewsOur new upriver maintenance team; How our pilots train to handle the world’s largest container ships. Plus a report on our #GreatRiverCities webinar exploring how rivers can be a catalyst for innovation.

23 OctoberIn this week's Tidal Thames NewsTilbury and HS2 rail developments; #TotallyThames impact; birthday honours for leading Thames figures; and banana ripening London Gateway.

16 OctoberIn this week's Tidal Thames NewsOur Great River Cities webinar; a Hammersmith Bridge update; research from MDS Transmodal and UKMPG finds ports are Brexit ready; Tate & Lyle doubles its community grants; Britannia Bureau's new space at London Gateway.

7 OctoberIn this week's Tidal Thames NewsThe continued protection of strategic sites for cargo handling on the Thames in London, updates on the Hammersmith Bridge taskforce, capacity increases on shipping services to and from Europe and a rapid appraisal of foreshore cleanliness.

1 OctoberIn this week's Tidal Thames NewsA new DHL service delivering parcels by river, details of our two webinars, oil berth developments, paper terminals, dredgers and swimming pools.

21 SeptemberIn the latest Tidal Thames NewsFactor the river into your #CarFree plans. Also: a new Norway-London shipping service calling at the Port of Tilbury and an "Island Life" tale.

16 SeptemberIn this week's Tidal Thames NewsWe cover the new Cleaning the Thames website set up to help better coordinate foreshore clean ups; how we’ve joined a project scoping London’s future; and, in a special feature, look at kayaking on the Thames.

9 SeptemberIn this week's Tidal Thames NewsWe hear from a pilot guiding a bulk carrier into the Tate & Lyle sugar refinery, mark the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower departing London and look at the annual Tidefest celebration of the river.

3 SeptemberOur first Tidal Thames News of September News of C.RO Ports’ new covered car deck, Tideway’s fifth birthday and a new wildlife guide for the Thames and Medway.

26 AugustThis week's Tidal Thames NewsWe catch up with how the port is supporting recovery, the start next week of Totally Thames, filming with Tony Robinson and how Richmond Canoe Club is helping people get afloat to enjoy the river.

21 AugustThis week's Tidal Thames NewsThe closure of Hammersmith Bridge; tidying the Thames at Allhallows; how we’re helping a young man complete his apprenticeship; and meet the crew of the Mary Maersk.

12 AugustThis week's Tidal Thames NewsThis week we report on Cory and the Port of Tilbury projects, a new proposal for a Thames freeport in Thurrock. We thank everybody for their immense support for Mark Towen’s cancer appeal and report on efforts to improve mental health awareness in the maritime sector.

4 AugustThis week's Tidal Thames NewsOur new film, highlighting the role the river can play in building a sustainable economic recovery. Its release coincides with the news that, despite the pandemic, port trade topped 22 million tonnes in the first half of the year. You can also read about Thames Clippers’ new tie-up with Uber and Thames Rockets notching up their 10,000th TripAdvisor review.

28 JulyThis week's Tidal Thames NewsThe launch of the annual Thames Lens photography competition, this year taking the theme – Thames Unlocked; a report on Cory Riverside Energy agreeing a multi-million-pound contract for 21 new barges; and Ford of Britain securing a £500 million Government export support package which will benefit their Dagenham plant.

23 JulyThis week's Tidal Thames NewsThe launch of the Thames Estuary Growth Board's Green Blue action plan, Hanson’s investment programme at Dagenham and new research highlighting plastic pollution in the river.

16 JulyThis week's Tidal Thames NewsThis year’s online and outdoors Totally Thames festival, Barking Riverside tapped to be the latest stop on the Thames Clippers network, the arrival of the final Tideway tunnel boring machine and updates on enjoying the Thames safely this summer

9 JulyThis week's Tidal Thames NewsOur latest safety campaign on Near Miss reporting, updates on our Barrier Gardens Pier extension project and an appeal for our harbour master for the upper tidal Thames, Mark Towens

2 JulyThis week's Tidal Thames NewsA summary of our annual environment report, the extension of Barrier Gardens Pier and details of our new safety signs for recreation on the Thames.

Lockdown Resources
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26 JuneThis week's Tidal Thames NewsThe return of City Cruises to operations on 4 July, a river safety heatwave warning (which chief harbour master, Bob Baker delivered on regional radio and TV news) and the release of our Annual Stakeholder Forum film.

16 JuneIn this week's Tidal Thames News: A Thames milestone with the arrival of the world’s largest container ship -- the HMM Algeciras, how we are supporting recovery, the release of an updated air quality strategy, a river safety drive and Tideway news. 

10 JuneThis week's Tidal Thames News looks at Thames Clippers’ planned return to operation, the arrival of the world’s largest container ship and the launch of the emissions reduction roadmap for inland waterways vessels.

3 JuneThe latest Tidal Thames News focuses on the seafarers who play a key role in keeping us supplied with life’s essentials, catch up on essential maintenance work underway at Richmond Lock and look ahead to next Monday’s World Oceans Day. 

27 MayThe latest Tidal Thames News covers the port’s continuing role keeping essential supplies on the move, looks ahead to the arrival of the world’s largest container ship on the Thames next month and hears how Thames Festival Trust is delivering its Rivers of the World education programme to great effect, even in a lockdown environment.

19 May: This week's Tidal Thames News covers the successful completion of ship trials at Tilbury2 -- Forth Port's new unaccompanied freight terminal, the reopening of the Thames to recreational activity and COVID-19 compliant operations

18 May: In line with Government guidance released in the week beginning 11 May we completed a detailed Risk Assessment and a comprehensive check to ensure that our operations are COVID-19 secure

14 May: Thames Foreshore Permits and Foreshore Activities The Port of London Authority (PLA) confirms that the Thames is suitable for appropriate recreational activity, including all foreshore searching activities. Therefore, anyone who holds a current foreshore permit may now return to the foreshore. The existing rules on restricted locations and on finds apply and, in line with Government guidance, social distancing of two metres must be maintained.

13 MaySport and recreation on the Thames Recreational river users – please see Notice to Mariners No.9 of 2020 covering Metropolitan Police, Kent Police and Essex Police and PLA agreement that, from 13 May 2020, the Thames is suitable for recreational activity, in line with Government guidance. To take to the river at this time you should be: experienced, understand the Tideway Code and other regulations, taking all reasonable precautions to ensure safety, including appropriate safety equipment.

13 MayThe Tidal Thames News explores the key role rail services are playing in moving goods from the port to their destinations, Tate & Lyle’s ‘flat out’ Thameside factory supporting the NHS and the PLA team is coming together (virtually) for seafarers. 

5 MayThis week's Tidal Thames News looks at plans for VE Day anniversary celebrations, how the crew on a cruise ship laid up at Tilbury is supporting the NHS and local community and pay tribute to our colleague, Bob Eveleigh. In April, there were over 1,300 ship movements in the Port of London, with more than 900 pilotage acts seeing ships safely into and out of port.

28 AprilThis week's Tidal Thames News looks at essential dredging underway which is keeping the port operational and goods moving; remind of the need to check moorings; cover how our team recovered a capsized pontoon; and much more. Last week (20-26 April) there were 324 commercial ship movements on the Thames and over 206 pilotage acts. 

21 AprilLarge commercial vessels continued to arrive and depart the Thames last week (13 April to 19 April), with 287 ship movements, 173 of which were piloted. The number of ship movements has fallen from the pre-coronavirus levels as supply chains progressively focus on essentials of food, medicine and electronic goods needed to help people work and stay in touch as we all need now to #stayhome.

16 AprilMembers of the PLA team working to keep trade flowing and the shelves stacked with essential goods, have a clear message after another busy week (6 to 12 April) in the port. They are keeping the port open so you can stay home. Last week there were 393 commercial ships movements on the Thames, of which 222 were piloted.

9 AprilAn Easter film message from the Port of London Authority: Since lock down, more than 1,000 ships have called on the Thames, where ports, terminals, shipping lines, towage companies, ourselves and many others are working together to keep the shelves stocked, fuel in the forecourts, medicines and other essentials supplied.  The #PortofLondon is working, so you can #stayhome. 

7 AprilPort of London had 423 commercial vessel movements, of which 225 were piloted: Vessels arriving included container ship, Massholm to London Gateway and Sophia N arriving to the Tate & Lyle refinery with a cargo of raw cane sugar from southern Africa. We continued to build resilience in our operations, with three marine river inspectors successfully completing training to also work as pilot cutter coxswains at Gravesend.

30 March: The port saw 472 vessel movements and 215 pilotage actsVessels calling on the Thames included freight ferries operating on routes to Rotterdam and Zeebrugge; container ships arriving on services from Europe, the Far East and North America; and tankers from Germany and Finland.

26 March: COVID-19 vessel survey and licensing arrangements: Due to the current circumstances with the coronavirus (COVID-19) affecting arrangements for the inspection of vessels licensed by the Port of London Authority, the licence will be extended for any vessel that has not been inspected between 1st March & 30th April 2020. 

24 MarchTaking additional steps to protect PLA employees and ensure that our essential services continue to be delivered

We made key changes:

  • Operational teams in Marine Services, Hydrographic Surveying and Civil Engineering, who provide support to ensure river safety through provision of services and systems, will operate an on-call service for essential work only. 
  • Harbour Service patrols in the upper district of the Thames (Teddington Lock to Putney) will cease; patrols in central London and downriver in the heart of the commercial port will continue.
  • All office staff will work from home, with travel into the office only in exceptional circumstances and this is absolutely necessary for the continuing functioning of frontline services

24 March: Covid-19 restrictions on recreation and leisure activities on the tidal Thames: To reduce social contact, travel and potential strain on emergency services, we strongly recommend that all recreation and leisure activities on the tidal Thames are avoided until further notice. 

Staying in Touch

If you have any questions about how we are responding to this unprecedented challenge, do please get in touch. We will continue to update you with news as and when the situation changes. You can keep up to date with the PLA via our website www.pla.co.uk, Twitter (@LondonPortAuth), Facebook and LinkedIn.

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