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Port of London Authority COVID-19 Response

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 will enable 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; 
  • all office-based support services such as legal and finance moving as far as possible to home working, with a skeleton office presence where essential; and
  • appropriate arrangements for staff who fall into the identified vulnerable groups.

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. 

Use these links to see the:


To learn more about the London Port Health Authority's response to the coronavirus pandemic, click here.


Latest Updates


Lockdown Resources
With many people and their children following guidance to stay at home as much as possible, we’ve drawn together in one place resources to help you learn, relax or improve your skills. Explore


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. 

Around the World With the PLA
The team at the Port of London Authority have taken on a lockdown challenge to get around the world – and raise money for seafarers. The challenge sees employees adding their daily exercise distance to that covered by harbour patrols, pilots of ships, surveyors and marine services. Find out more.

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.

Tidal Thames News

26 June
16 June
10 June
3 June
27 May
19 May
13 May
5 May
28 April
21 April
16 April
7 April
30 March
25 March
24 March
18 March