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Port of London operations – COVID-19 response

24 March 2020

Following the Prime Minister’s 23 March address to the nation, we are taking additional steps to both protect our employees and ensure that our essential service, supporting across national supply chains, continue to be delivered.  In his address, the Prime Minister outlined that, for at least three weeks, people should stay at home, other than for: shopping for basic necessities; exercising once a day; any medical need; and travelling to and from essential work.

At the Port of London Authority (PLA) we play a key role in ensuring food reaches the shops, fuel is provided in the service station forecourts, medical supplies and other essentials are available. 

Existing arrangements put in place to ensure continued port operations will be maintained.  Our colleagues working as normal in frontline operations, with appropriate social distancing and other precautions, are:

  • pilots, who guide ships in and out of the port;
  • port control staff, who coordinate river operations;
  • pilot cutter crews, who transfer pilots to and from ships;
  • support staff in navigation systems, who maintain our radar and vessel tracking systems;
  • marine engineers, who keep our boat operational; and
  • Richmond Lock keepers, who operate the weirs that maintain the statutory river levels between Richmond and Teddington Lock

The key changes we are making with immediate effect, in light of the 23 March announcement, are:

  • 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

Previous arrangements to protect staff who fall into the identified vulnerable groups will continue.

The Port of London is one of the two largest ports in the UK by tonnage of goods handled.  The PLA Executive Committee meets daily via video conference, monitoring and adjusting our response to the developing situation, working closely with our customers, the UK Government, London Port Health Authority and other key stakeholders.

We will continue our core operations, so that essentials continue to be available to families across London, the south east and more widely.

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 in touch with PLA updates via our website www.pla.co.uk, Twitter (@LondonPortAuth), Facebook and LinkedIn.

Related: 23 March statement from the Port of London Authority