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Port of London Authority takes 100% ownership of Estuary Services Limited

The Port of London Authority (PLA) has taken full control of Estuary Services Limited (ESL), the company that provides a boarding and landing service for pilots joining and leaving ships trading to and from the ports of London and Medway, after acquiring the Peel Ports 50% interest in the business.

ESL operates a fleet of six fast launches based at Ramsgate and Sheerness to transfer pilots to and from ships in the Thames estuary at the North East Spit and Warps pilot stations and to the anchorages at Margate, Tongue, Southend and the Great Nore.

The PLA has more than 90 pilots who last year completed over 12,000 pilotage acts, guiding vessels to and from berths on the Thames, the UK’s biggest port. Peel will continue to work with ESL to support the transfer of its 24 pilots to and from vessels calling into the Medway.

PLA chief executive, Robin Mortimer, commented:

“The last twelve months have highlighted the importance of resilient marine operations, ready to support supply chains for essentials such as food, fuel and medicines into London and the South East. ESL is a key part of the marine services infrastructure serving the Thames and Medway.

“Acquiring sole ownership of ESL is part of the ongoing investment in our pilotage operations over the last five years, which includes continued recruitment of trainee pilots and the introduction of new IT-based pilot allocation systems to improve customer service.”

Peel Ports’ Port Director for Medway and Great Yarmouth, Richard Goffin commented:

“Whilst ESL has been a great asset to us and has served us well for 34 years, it is ultimately not our core area of business so we have agreed a sale with the PLA. We will however continue to work together to ensure our pilots safely board our customers’ vessels for the foreseeable future.

“We are proud to have been part of this company, which has also benefited from continued investment, with four new pilot launches acquired over the last eight years, offering improved fuel efficiency, comfort for passage to the pilot transfer stations and safety for pilot transfers to ships.”

ESL will continue to operate as an independent business, there will be no changes for employees, who will continue to be employed directly by ESL.

PLA operations director, Peter Steen will become ESL chairman.