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Air Quality

Air Quality Strategy for the tidal Thames


Air quality and emissions to air from vessels is a health and environmental priority in the UK and has been identified as being one of the top issues for ports in Europe. The operation of vessels on the tidal Thames provides only a small percentage of the London atmospheric emission inventory, accounting for 1% of the capital’s emissions. However, the river’s overall contribution to London’s emissions is likely to increase as emissions from road vehicles fall due to tightening legislation, and use of the river grows.

The aim of the Air Quality Strategy for the tidal Thames is:

The reduction in harmful emissions to air from marine sources within the tidal River Thames, whilst facilitating the Port and London’s future growth.

The Strategy will be delivered through a Five Year Action Plan, covering 2018 to 2022. The 18 proposals for action in the document include carrying out further studies, establishing standards, investigating means to develop and implement green technology, encouraging best practice and further monitoring of river emissions.

Targets & Actions

The Strategy provides challenging targets to reach over the next 25 years, in particular the reduction of NOX and PM’s by 50%, whilst still growing activity within the Port of London.

To start to achieve these targets, the Strategy proposes a total of 18 actions which will be implemented over the next five years.  The achievement of these actions will require partnership working with operators, central and regional government, statutorily authorities and riparian boroughs, all of whom, together with the public, have engaged with us throughout this process.

Development of the Strategy

In preparing the Strategy, we undertook ground-breaking research into vessel emissions, dispersion and prepared the first air quality inventory for the entirety of the tidal Thames.  We’ve also, again a first for a UK port, introduced a Green Tariff to encourage operators to use the cleanest vessels when coming to the Port of London.

Once the studies were complete and the data analysed, we met with a range of stakeholders to consult on the emerging findings and options for improving the environmental performance of vessels on the Thames.

The draft Air Quality Strategy was published for consultation in early December 2017 and the final version published in late May 2018.

Updates on the Air Quality Strategy will be available on this website and in future PLA publications.

Download the Air Quality Strategy

You can read the Air Quality Strategy here and the first port wide inventory commissioned by the Port of London and Transport for London is available here for download. Alternatively, open the documents by clicking on the covers below.



Case studies

You can find out more about what Thames terminals and operators are doing to reduce the emissions to air from their operations here:

MBNA Thames Clippers

Cory Riverside Energy

DP World London Gateway



Air Quality Guidance

In the work towards the strategy and the consultation stakeholders told us that they wanted better guidance as to how to improve air quality from projects along the river, which freight and passengers by river can help to do, while reducing the emissions from marine sources. As such both the guidance for operators and that for developers have been produced in the first year of the strategy.

Action 4 Guidance for Developers                                                       Action 5 Guidance for inland fleet operators