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Event Organiser Guidance

The Port of London Authority has the primary responsibly to maintain safe access and to manage and support the safety of navigation for all vessels using the tidal River Thames.

Thames Byelaw 9 requires event organisers to seek consent from the Harbour Masters should they want to organise a: recreational, sporting, race, sponsored event, display, regatta, rally,   demonstration, culture event, a fireworks display or any other river event on the tidal River Thames.

The PLA requests that all event organisers consult with the Harbour Masters at their earliest opportunity, prior to undertaking any detailed planning for a proposed event or waterborne activity.

Harbour Masters: [email protected] or 01474 562 203 / 01474 562 328

Event organisers and persons involved in the proposed events/activity must comply with the provision of: the Port of London Act 1968; the Port of London Thames Byelaws 2012; the PLA General Directions for Navigation; Notices to Mariners and any other statutory requirements. They must also comply with instructions from PLA officers and their authorised representatives.

All events will be required to submit a formal Risk Assessment and event plan (including; numbers involved, timetable for event, location(s) of proposed event) for the proposed event/activity to the District Harbour Master. Should the PLA have any comments on these documents then these must be fully considered prior to the event being given consent.

It cannot be overstated enough, that early dialogue takes place with the District Harbour Master to ensure that it is clear what details will be required within the Risk Assessment and event plans. However in most cases the following as a minimum must be considered and include:

  • Collisions (with fellow competitors and other Port users),
  • Contact (i.e. piers, buoys, moored vessels, etc),
  • Grounding
  • Mechanical breakdown/failure
  • Failure of safety cover
  • Man Over Board (MOB)
  • Weather considerations (with actual parameters as to when the event/activity will be abandoned or cancelled (this needs to include; wind speed/direction, temperature, restricted visibility),
  • Abandonment protocols in case of incident, emergency or unsuitable conditions
  • Evidence of insurance cover* (see note)
  • Environmental impacts on the river, river species and designated habitats sites.
  • Minimisation of litter and use of sustainable materials.
  • Consideration for the need for safety cover and appropriate checks carried out on Safety Boat(s) suitability.

The organiser must implement all safety recommendations arising from the Risk Assessment, and all requests by the Harbour Master.

The organiser must ensure that dispensation from certain regulations during the event, such as for Byelaw 16, are confirmed and authorised by the harbourmaster in writing.

Lifejackets/Buoyance Aids - If the event wishes to allow participants not to wear lifejackets/buoyancy aids, it must be proven within your risk assessment that the risk to participants is as low as is reasonably practical, and to the satisfaction of the district Harbour Master.

Event organisers must be able to demonstrate how they have made all participants aware of their responsibility to themselves and others in the event and/or Port users’ with regards to their ability to take part safely in the conditions as they find them on the day.

All participants must have access to any safety instructions used as mitigation in the Risk Assessment in advance of the event.

Where vessels are used for the carriage of persons or goods, each vessel must be under the charge of a person duly qualified as required by PLA Byelaws.

Any vessels utilised for proposed events/activities; which are not “pleasure vessels” as defined under the Merchant Shipping (Survey and Certification) Regulations 1995; must provide the District Harbour Master with the vessel’s PLA Licence or MCA Certification.

After approval but before the event

The District Harbour Master will issue the Event Organiser with a PLA Letter of Consent (LoC) which must be signed and returned prior to the event taking place.

The Event Organiser must confirm the number of participants with the District Harbourmaster, at least one working day in advance of the event.

On the day of the event the organiser must ensure that the weather and river conditions are suitable and that adequate marshalling, safety and rescue craft, capable of communicating with other vessels and London VTS through the medium of International Maritime Mobile band VHF radio, are available and all other identified risk control measures are in place.

London VTS must be contacted either by VHF or telephone (as below) before the start of the event and after the event has finished:

  • West of Crayfordness -- VHF Channel 14 or 02032 607 711
  • Crayfordness to Sea Reach No. 4 -- VHF Channel 68 or 01474 562 215
  • East of Sea Reach No.4 -- VHF Channel 69 or 01474 562 215

Additional Costs

Any additional services provided by the PLA following discussions with the Event Organiser (e.g. Harbour Service Launch to conduct Local Traffic Control or a River Closure) will be subject to additional charges.

If the PLA decides that a Notice to Mariners needs to be promulgated to advise fellow Port users of the event, the full administration cost of a Notice will also be subject to additional charges.

Regularly Held Events

Where events are held on a regular basis, for example a weekly or monthly yacht race organised by a club, a generic Risk Assessment and Event Plan may be authorised by the District Harbour Master for a limited period not exceeding 12-months. The Risk Assessment and Event Plan must then undergo a formal review, prior to re-approval. In all cases clubs are requested to inform the District Harbour Master of all events during this period so that adequate information can be promulgated to fellow Port users.

Firework Displays

Due to the hazardous nature of these events, regardless of who is responsible for the event’s organisation, it is the firework display operator who should forward a Fireworks Display Method Statement and Risk Assessment to the District Harbour Master. The fireworks display operator must agree to comply with the Code of Conduct for Fireworks Displays available here.

The PLA will not normally permit private firework displays within Central London (Lambeth to Greenwich). However each display will be judged on it own merits especially in regard to the effects it might have on other Port users and the river environment.

Other aspects to consider

All event organisers will need to consider the following aspects in their event planning process:

Environmental issues: should the event have an impact on the tidal River Thames environment (proposals for Waterscreens, Confetti, Streamers, fireworks, etc), this should be given careful consideration and discussions may be required with the PLA’s Environment Team to minimise the impact on the river. Ballon and Lantern releases are not permitted over the river. The PLA publishes guidance on environmental issues, which can be found this link.

If the event is likely to impact on a designated habitat site (SSSI, SPA, SAC, Ramsar) the applicant must obtain permission from Natural England (NE) before applying to the PLA and provide evidence of NE approval with their PLA application.

Corporate / PR / advertising / sponsored events: Should an event on the river be corporate / corporate sponsored and / or involve any commercial branding / logos / advertising or PR element then the activity should be discussed at an early stage with the PLA Corporate Affairs Team. (This includes any private / corporate fireworks). A commercial licence fee is charged for all such corporate activities including those with branding / PR / advertising etc.

Similarly, if the event involves any professional filming / video / photography, the vessel shall be suitably licensed for the carriage of passengers and you will need to apply for a filming licence from the PLA Corporate Affairs Team.

All licence applications must be submitted using our online form, which covers the key information we need to know to consider your request. The form can be accessed at this link.

See filming, photography and events on the tidal Thames for additional information.

For events alongside the Thames, please see our Water Safety guidance.

Consultation: The Event Organiser, where appropriate, needs to consult the following organisations (which is not an exhaustive list):

  • HM Coastguard
  • Local Emergency Services
  • The Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI)
  • The Local Authority/Council

Further Reading

Related Infomation

* The PLA Event Letter of Consent has the following statement regarding insurance cover:

The Organiser(s) shall:

a. be responsible for all risks and liabilities directly arising out of or incidental to or connected with the organised event and shall keep the PLA its employees and agents fully indemnified from and against expenses, losses, damage, liability and claims only where and to the extend that the Organiser(s) are negligent and or are legally liable for

(i) personal injuries or death to any person (save where such injuries or death arise from the negligent actions of the PLA its employees or agents)

(ii) loss of or damage to any property (and the term “property” include the river bed and any property belonging to the PLA) (save where such loss of or damage to property arises from the negligent actions of the PLA its employees or agents)

(iii)  any breach or non-observance of the covenants and conditions of this licence and any other loss, damage cost or expense (whether or not due to negligence) arising out of or in consequence of the carrying out of the agreed activities or the presence of the Organiser(s) their employees agents independent contractors or invitees on the river for the event;

(The PLA will give notice to the Organiser(s) of any relevant action, proceeding, claim or demand of which it becomes aware but the Organiser(s) shall not take over the conduct of any action or proceeding or defend settle negotiate compromise or otherwise deal with any claim or demand made to or involving the PLA and covered by the above indemnity without first obtaining the PLA’s consent (not to be unreasonably withheld or delayed.)

b. not make any claim against the PLA nor its employees or agents for death or personal injury, or other loss or damage including any damage to property (unless caused by the negligence of the PLA or its employees or agents) arising out of or in consequence of the carrying out of the agreed activities or the presence of the Organiser(s) their employees agents independent contractors or invitees on the river for the event;

c. without prejudice to its liability to indemnify the PLA the Organiser(s) shall maintain with reputable insurers such insurances as may be necessary to cover the death of or personal injury to any person and loss or damage to any property  and any claim which may arise under the provisions of sub-clause a. above out of or in consequence of  the carrying out of the agreed activities or the presence of the Organiser(s) their employees agents independent contractors or invitees on the river for the event and such insurance shall provide cover of not less than five million pounds (£5,000,000) for any one incident the number of incidents to be unlimited.  The Organiser(s) shall prior to the start of the event supply to the PLA a copy of the relevant insurance policy or policies.

d. ensure the event and participants in the event cause no harm to the tidal Thames environment and its wildlife.