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PLA launches new safety campaign Watch Your Wash

PLA launches Watch Your Wash campaign

On the second day of Maritime Safety Week 2023, the Port of London Authority (PLA) is taking a lead in creating a positive safety culture, announcing its latest safety campaign, Watch Your Wash, to increase awareness of the potential risks of vessel wash and draw-off on river users along the tidal Thames.

“Wash” is a term used for the waves that are created when a vessel moves through the water, displacing it. It often extends behind a vessel in the shape of a V and varies, depending on several factors, including the size and speed of the vessel, the rate of acceleration/deceleration and the available depth of water.

“Draw-off” refers to the effects that occur when two or more vessels come into close proximity of each other, when either one or both vessels are making way. The stationary vessel can experience a “pull-off”’ effect, resulting in it being pulled away from its moorings.

Bob Baker, the PLA’s chief harbour master, explains:

“As the navigational safety authority of the UK’s largest port, and busiest inland waterway, we have decided to take a pro-active approach to the safety risks of wash and draw off.

“The masters of any power-driven vessels must ensure that their vessels are navigated at a speed and manner, so that neither the safety of other river users, (including moorings, piers, berths of jetties), nor the integrity of the foreshore are compromised.

“So, our simple message to all masters is Watch Your Wash.”

A quarter of all reported navigational incidents in 2022 at the PLA were related to wash complaints, which are increasing year on year. So far this year, the PLA has received 47 wash complaints.

As well as causing a risk to the safety of navigation, and to the safety of other river users, such as the houseboat community, wash or draw off can have a detrimental impact on the environment and wildlife, through noise and disruption.

The PLA encourages all river users to submit a wash complaint, even by those not personally affected.

The PLA investigates all reports it receives and uses sophisticated data analysis to identify trends. This data in turn can be used to affect appropriate mitigation measures with the aim of continually improving safety.

Wash complaints (and other issues) can be reported via Resolver, our reporting portal.

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