Introduction to the Port of London
The PLA has responsibilities for 95 miles of the tidal River Thames from Teddington Lock to the outer port limits in the Thames Estuary. We work in partnership with those using the River for trade, travel, recreation and pleasure. Together we form a port that is the second biggest in the UK. The port employs 40,000 people in associated industries and contributes over £3 billion to the economy, making it part of the UK critical infrastructure. It is also a growing commuter and tourist route used by over 6 million people and a setting for rowers and pleasure craft.
The Management of Navigational Safety
This is our primary role as defined in the Port of London Act 1968. The Harbour Master is responsible for navigational safety on a day to day basis and has powers to control and direct navigation and, if necessary, restrict public access to the River. The Harbour Master would take the PLA Silver role in the event of a marine emergency. He is supported by our Vessel Traffic Service (London VTS), working from our Port Control centre (PCC) in Gravesend and the Thames Barrier Navigation centre (TBNC) in Woolwich, which provides comprehensive information on vessel movements.
The Port of London Authority is a Category 2 responder under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004. In addition to supporting Category 1 responders, we will co-operate with other organisations in the planning, response and recovery for emergencies and support initiatives with implications for the tidal River Thames.
For further information on the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 please read the relevant legislation section of the UK government website.
Initial response: Activation of the PLA response should normally be via a call to the Duty port Controller at PCC or Duty Officer at TBNC. They will initiate action based on experience, supported by action sheets contained in the PLA Emergency Manual. Port Emergencies fall into two categories; Marine Incident and Major Incident.
On-going Response & Recovery: Following the initial notification, the response and subsequently the recovery, will be led by the relevant district Harbour Master.
Marine Incident: These are usually co-ordinated by the PLA, with routine assistance from the emergency services and other agencies as necessary. Any associated Search and Rescue element will be led by the Maritime & Coastguard agency – London or Thames Coastguard.
Major Incident: In common with the major incident definition of other agencies, this is an incident beyond the normal capacity of the PLA, requiring special arrangements for response, co-ordination and management in conjunction with other agencies.
Command and Control: We will establish a command and control structure for the PLA appropriate to the nature of the incident. For a Major Incident we will endeavour to provide Liaison Officers as required to ensure effective co-ordination at Strategic, Tactical and Operational locations.
Command and Control Facilities: We have the facilities to co-ordinate the PLA response at both the PCC and TBNC. These facilities can also accommodate partners’ Liaison Officers and multi-agency meetings, although there is limited capacity at TBNC.
We have a responsibility to safeguard the marine environment, in particular under the Merchant Shipping Oil Preparedness, Response and Co-operation Convention (OPRC) regulations 1998. The PLA operates the Thames Oil Spill Clearance Association (TOSCA), a limited oil spill response capability, comprising of oil spill response vessels and equipment. The PLA also have arrangements in place with the Thanet Fisherman’s Association, to provide a rapid response in the event of an oil spill originating from bunkering operations in the outer estuary. Furthermore, another contract ensures that in the unlikely event of a larger spill, we are able to provide the necessary enhanced tier 2 response.
Contacting the Port of London Authority in an emergency or an incident, that has implications for the tidal Thames
Port Control Centre (PCC) Duty Port Controller (24hr) – 01474 560 311
Thames Barrier Navigation centre (TBNC) Duty Officer (24hr) – 0208 855 0315
The PCC leads on incidents linked to Essex and Kent, TBNC leads for London, but either can take an initial notification.
Contacting the Port of London Authority for routine Emergency Planning issues
For routine Emergency Planning and Resilience issues, please contact the PLA.
Call us: 01474 562 247
Write to us: London River House, Royal Pier Road, Gravesend, Kent, DA12 2BG.