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Enforcement Action

Port of London Authority Prosecution Information (1994 onward)

Introduction

Thames Enforcement Action The Port of London Authority (PLA) is responsible for enforcing many of the laws and regulations that apply on the tidal River Thames; but enforcement does not necessarily mean prosecution. Prosecution and the associated penalties imposed by a Court provide the ultimate sanction, but enforcement provides a range of responses from education and advice, to informal verbal warnings, through formal written warnings to action in the Courts.

Legal Background of the PLA

The Port of London Act 1968 (as amended) (The Act) consolidated earlier legislation and, over the years, has been amended by various Harbour Revision Orders. The Act provides the legislative backbone to the PLA but it is not the only law that applies on the Thames; the national laws of England and Wales also apply.

The Act creates offences as well as providing the powers under which the PLA can make its own Byelaws and give General Directions. The Act also provides that the Harbour Master can give Special Directions. Failure to comply with some of the provisions of the Act, Byelaws and Directions are offences for which offenders can be prosecuted.

Range of Enforcement Options

Enforcement covers everything from cordial education on the conduct expected on the tidal Thames to prosecution on indictment in the Crown Court where the Court may impose fines and/or send someone to prison.

The current range of enforcement options adopted by the PLA includes:

  • Education;
  • Verbal Warning (Informal);
  • Harbour Master's Warning (Formal);
  • Harbour Master's Reprimand (Formal);
  • Prosecution.

PLA Prosecutions 1994 to date

The Table below gives details of every PLA prosecution since 1994. The most common offences against the Port of London Act are:

Section 108 – Navigating without due care and attention.

Section 118 – Failure to comply with general or special directions.

Section 167 – Requirement at all times to proceed at a safe speed

 
Year of Prosecution Offence Outcome of Prosecution
2016 A high speed Passenger Vessel navigated inside the Shadwell Basin moorings, creating excessive wash and passing within 15m of the river wall in excess of 20 knots, in contravention of section 108 of the PLA Act - navigating without due care and attention.

The vessel navigated outside of the main channel in contravention of General Direction 36 and did not follow agreed passage plans as laid down by their company.
The master pleaded guilty and was fined £440, a victim surcharge of £44 and court costs of £750.
2016 A speedboat was navigating at high speed through central London. A Police patrol vessel and a PLA launch gave chase at speeds upwards of 35 knots and was intercepted at Putney. The master failed to attend the original hearing and an arrest warrant without bail was issued.

After 24 hours in Police custody, the master pleaded guilty to an offence under Section 108 of the Port of London Act and was subsequently fined £3,000 and also fined £1,800 in legal fees.
2016 A Thames Motor Barge was significantly overdue its out of water inspection. The Vessel Licensing team issued a Special Direction to prevent navigation, except from their moorings to dry dock.

The TIDY THAMES was subsequently seen navigating and working in C. London in breach of this direction, as well as the vessel not displaying Thames AIS required by Thames Byelaws.
The company and Master pleaded not guilty.

The company was found guilty of Navigating an unlicensed vessel and was fined £1k with a victim surcharge of £100 and costs of £8,750.

The Master was found guilty of Navigating in contravention of a Special Direction and Navigating without AIS. He was fined £1,500 for the AIS offence and £1,250 for the Special Direction offence with a Victim Surcharge of £150 and £8,000 costs.
2016 A Passenger RIB was navigating at high speed outward bound on the Starboard side of the fairway. The RIB failed to observe a recreational motor vessel ahead of his vessel who was also navigating outward bound on the Starboard side of the fairway. This resulted in a collision between the RIB and the recreational motor vessel. The Master pleaded guilty. He was fined £3,000, £1,500 costs and a court surcharge of £120.
2016 A Passenger RIB was navigating erratically and in contravention of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (Col Regs). The Master pleased guilty. He was fined £500 for dangerous navigation, £500 for contravention of the Col Regs, £1,500 costs and a court surcharge of £120.
2013 A Passenger vessel was preceding outward bound approaching Westminster Bridge, the Master altered course to Port but never corrected his course, resulting in the vessel making heavy contact with the river wall underneath No.1 Arch at Westminster Bridge. The Master pleaded guilty to an offence under Section 108 of the Port of London Act and was fined £500. He was ordered to pay £500 costs and a £50 victim surcharge.
2012 A Passenger vessel was navigating inward bound against the ebb tide and took No.2 arch of Battersea Road Bridge. The Master of the vessel realised that there was insufficient air draft, resulting the vessel making contact with the bridge at 5.5 knots. The Master pleaded guilty and was fined £250, costs of £500 and victim surcharge of £15.
2012 A PLA Harbour Service launch intercepted a motor tug towing a barge outward bound in Greenwich Reach, as the vessel was not displaying an AIS track. The Master pleaded guilty of not having Thames Automatic Identification System (AIS) and was fined £1,500, with £2,000 costs.
2011 A vessel, whilst transferring fuel, spilt a small quantity of oil into the water. The Master made no attempt to block the deck overflows prior to the transfer; additionally the vessel failed to report the spill to London VTS. The owners of the vessel were fined £10,000 plus £2,376 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.
2010 A Passenger vessel was speeding on the wrong side of channel above Wandsworth Bridge. The Master was fined £500, £550 costs, plus a £15 victim surcharge for the speeding offence.
2009 A speedboat was being navigated without due care and attention near Richmond Canoe Club, which led to the vessel making contact with a moored boat. It then drove over one of the canoe club's safety boats and collided with a rented Thames cutter with 5 ladies on board. The vessel continued on without reducing power and drove over the cutter, rolling it over and emptying the occupants into the river. One passenger in the cutter sustained a broken leg. The Master was prosecuted under Section 108 of the Port of London Act and was found guilty of dangerous navigation. He was fined £1,500, ordered to pay compensation of £6,479; and costs of £20,000.
2009 A Passenger vessel was observed on Automatic Identification System (AIS) by the Thames Barrier Navigation Centre, Duty Officer to be navigating well beyond normal operational speed limits. The Master pleaded guilty and was fined £350 and ordered to pay £250 costs.
2008 A vessel was causing excessive wash when passing moored vessels. The Master pleaded guilty and was fined £330 plus £200 costs.
2004 Whilst outbound from Nine Elms a motor barge collided with a passenger vessel. The Master of the motor barge pleaded guilty and was fined £800. Costs were also awarded for £1000.
2004 A vessel was observed by Essex Police Marine Unit to be navigating erratically and at speed exceeding the 8 knot speed limit in the creeks north of Canvey Island. The person in charge of the vessel was prosecuted under Section 108(b) Port of London Act and River Byelaw 48(1). He was fined £400 and ordered to pay costs of £200.
2004 A vessel was observed to be navigating erratically between the Oaze anchorage and the Medway Buoy. The vessel crossed the Oaze Restricted Zone and passed close to the Redsand Towers. The Master appeared to be under the influence of alcohol. The Master was prosecuted by the Crown Prosecution Service under Section 78 of the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2004.
2003 The Master of a passenger vessel navigated his vessel in such a manner so as to constrain another vessel's safe navigation, resulting in a near miss. A prosecution was brought by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency under Section 58 of the merchant Shipping Act 1995. The Master was fined £500 and costs of £1000.
2003 A vessel was inward bound for Chatham Dock and grounded off Warden Point after the Master lost consciousness having been bitten/stung in ear. A joint Investigation by the Medway and PLA Harbour Masters revealed that the watch alarm had been switched off. A successful prosecution was undertaken by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. The ship owners were fined £1,500. Costs were agreed out of court.
2002 A personal watercraft was navigated in a reckless manner at speeds approaching 40 knots for over a period of 45 minutes around Canvey Island. The rider twice ignored Police instructions to stop and caused distress to several local craft. The person in charge was prosecuted successfully under the Port of London Act and River Byelaws on 4 counts.
2001 An inward bound motor tug with tow passed close to a vessel berthed at Tilbury Power Station Jetty. The stern of the tow made contact with a vessel berthed on the jetty, causing minor damage above waterline. The Mate of the tug prosecuted under Section 108(a) of the Port of London Act and fined £200.
2001 An inbound bound vessel was navigated erratically in the navigational channel. The Master was breathalysed and tested positive. The Master was prosecuted under Section 108(a) of the Port of London Act, River Byelaws 9 and the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, Rule 5. He was fined £2,000, £500, £500 on each count respectively. Costs of £500 were also awarded.
2001 An inbound bound vessel was navigated erratically in the navigational channel. The Master was breathalysed and tested positive. The Master was prosecuted under Section 108(a) of the Port of London Act, River Byelaws 9 and the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, Rule 5. He was fined £2,000, £500, £500 on each count respectively. Costs of £500 were also awarded.
2000 An outward bound vessel, with the Mate on watch, veered across the river and struck another vessel on the port quarter above water line. The Master was prosecuted under Section 108(b) of the Port of London Act and Rule 6 of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea and fined £500 and £100 respectively.
2000 A total of 50 litres of heavy fuel oil spilled from a vessel during re-fuelling operations. The Master pleaded guilty to an offence under the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 and was fined £5,000.
2000 An outward bound vessel suffered an engine problem rounding Broadness. The Master left wheelhouse unattended to see what the problem was and the vessel grounded. The Master was successfully prosecuted under Section 108(a) of the Port of London Act and received a 1 year conditional discharge.
2000 An outward bound motor tug, towing two loaded barges, made contact with the Lower Hope Buoy and demolishing the top mark and cage. The Master pleaded guilty to an offence under Section 108(a) of the Port of London Act and was fined £500.
2000 The Master of a vessel was apprehended by Southend Borough Council Foreshore Department operating within 200 metres of the Beach in violation of PLA Byelaws 51 and 52, and Section 108(a) of the Port of London Act The Master was successfully prosecuted and was fined £750. Costs of £1,000 were awarded.
2000 Approximately 500 litres of lube oil spilled into the River during oil transfer operations. The Master was found guilty of an offence under the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 and fined £2,500. Costs of £658 were awarded. The Officer in charge of the operation was dismissed by the owners.
2000 An inward bound vessel was being navigated erratically in Princes Channel and failed to respond satisfactorily to VHF calls. The Master was found guilty under Sections 108(b) and 117 of the Port of London Act and fined a total of £1,800.
1999 A PLA Pilot Cutter was observed drifting away from the mooring pontoon in the early hours. An unknown person was seen to jump overboard when challenged by the crew. He was rescued by the crew and handed over to the Police. The person was successfully prosecuted under PLA River Byelaw 54(1) and fined £500. Costs of £300 were awarded.
1999 A speedboat exceeded the speed limit of 8 knots in Benfleet Creek. The Master was found guilty and fined £250 with £500 costs awarded.
1999 A vessel grounded on rounding at Stoneness. The vessel re-floated and proceeded inward bound to berth. The Master failed a breathalyser test. The Master was successfully prosecuted under Sections 108 (a) and 117 1) of the Port of London Act, and River Byelaw 9(1) and fined £1,700, £350 and £800 respectively. Costs of £1,200 were awarded.
1998 A vessel navigated inward bound from the Outer Pilotage Limits to Sea Reach 4 without a PEC Holder having conduct of the vessel. The Master pleaded guilty on 2 counts under the Pilotage act 1987 and was given a 12 month conditional discharge plus £250 costs.
1998 Rounding Broadness inward bound a vessel touched the bottom at the Black Shelf, losing all power and slewed across the river to ground above Broadness Creek. The vessel was holed and, subsequently rolled onto its starboard side and sank. The Master was prosecuted under Section 108 of the Port of London Act and fined £1,000.
1998 A vessel was inward bound in the Princes Channel and had to take evasive action to avoid a collision with a fishing vessel. The Master was successfully prosecuted under International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea Rule 5, 7(B), 15 and 16 and was fined £1,000.
1998 A large pontoon, towed by a motor tug, struck a vessel at Thistleworth Marine. The tug and tow also made contact and caused superficial damage to Twickenham Road and Rail Bridges before becoming wedged under Richmond Road Bridge. The Master was convicted under of three charges under Section 108 of the Port of London Act and was fined a total of £2,100.
1998 Whilst loading cargo an error by the operator resulted in substantial deck spillage of high sulphur oil, with up to 500 litres entering the river. 150 litres recovered. The vessel operator was fined £5,000. Thames Oil Spill Clearance Association charges of £4,125.25 were recovered from vessel's insurers.
1997 A fishing vessel was at anchor to the east of the East Blyth; it was hit by an outbound motor barge and sunk. The Master of the barge was prosecuted for failure to keep a proper lookout under Rule 5 of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972 (as amended) and was fined £750.
1997 A vessel was taking fuel, however did not have deck drain in use, which, following a spill, resulted in approximately 200 litres of gas oil being discharging overboard. The Master was fined £2,000. Clean-up costs of £1,244 were recovered from the vessel's insurers.
1996 Whilst being towed, a houseboat made contact with Richmond Railway Bridge, resulting in significant damage to the houseboat. No apparent damage to railway bridge The Master was convicted under Section 108 of the Port of London Act, found guilty of navigating without due care and attention and was fined £1,000. The Master was also fined £50 for navigating an unregistered vessel and a further £750 for navigating without an electronic keying device.
1996 During cargo transfer operations, a procedural error resulted in an overflow from a secure area and approximately 9.6 litres of heavy fuel oil entered the river. The Company was successfully prosecuted and fined £10,000 plus Costs of £352.50 and clean up costs of £959 was also recovered.
1996 An oversight during loading fuel, resulted in oil being spilt onto the deck of the vessel and a minimal amount entered the water. The Company pleaded guilty and were fined £2000 and £400 costs, and paid clean-up costs of £607.
1996 A vessel was navigating outward bound on wrong side of fairway, which lead to a close quarters situation with an inward vessel. At the time of the incident the vessel was being navigated by the 2nd Mate, who did not hold a pilotage exemption certificate. The Master pleaded guilty under Section 17(2) of the Pilotage Act 1997 and under Section 108(a) of the Port of London Act and was fined £50 and £250 respectively.
1996 Diesel fuel was spilled onto the deck and into river during bunkering operations The Master fined £1000 and £500 costs plus £1,244.00 TOSCA costs.