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Guidance on working on vessels afloat and on the foreshore

The Port of London Authority (PLA) is a statutory harbour authority, the regulator of river works and dredging and a significant landowner, including large marine and terrestrial sites of high value for nature conservation and biodiversity. In addition to its general environmental responsibilities, the PLA has duties to conserve and enhance biodiversity within the Port of London under several pieces of legislation.

The relationship between safety of navigation, port development and nature conservation must be managed with care to allow the delivery of potentially conflicting objectives and to ensure compliance with the PLA's statutory obligations and environmental responsibilities.

Associated Legislation

This guidance specifically supports the requirements for vessel maintenance work at moorings or on the foreshore laid down in the Port of London Thames Byelaws 2012, Byelaw 48. (Note: This Byelaw came into force on 1st July 2012)

All works on the River must also comply with the Port of London Act 1968, Section 200; and while also considering the Water Resources Act 1991, Section 85, both of which regulate any polluting matter entering controlled waters. Vessel owners should note that in addition the waste and debris produced during vessel maintenance may be classified as hazardous and will need to be disposed of correctly under the relevant waste regulations. All works should also conform with the PLA’s Environmental Policy and Byelaw 48.

Vessel Maintenance

Minor maintenance work on vessels is permitted on the foreshore as long as the following pollution prevention measures are taken by vessel owners and those undertaking the work:

  • When cleaning the topsides and decks of vessels, detergents and bleaches should be used sparingly.  An alternative environmentally-friendly product should be used where possible.
  • Try to reduce the amount of water used when cleaning a boat by using a spray gun attachment to a hose which will automatically stop when not in use.
  • Removal of weed and paint may be carried out as long as plastic sheeting is placed under the area to be worked on and is large enough to collect all the debris.
  • Re-painting can be carried out by roller or brush. Sheeting must be placed under the area of work to protect the foreshore
  • This sheeting must be removed before every rising tide and once the work has been completed. The debris and paints must be disposed of appropriately ashore.
  • All maintenance materials and waste must be removed from the foreshore before every rising tide and once work has been completed.
  • No noxious, polluting or offensive matter is permitted to enter the water
  • All major maintenance works should be carried out in a dry-dock or wash-down area ashore with the appropriate permits in place. The associated residue may be toxic and needs to be stored and disposed of correctly as hazardous waste.
  • Vessel maintenance can be carried out within a vessel whilst at anchor or at moorings or alongside on the foreshore, but no noxious or offensive matter may be permitted to enter the water
  • Generators and/or compressors, other machinery and equipment can not be placed and used on the foreshore
  • If unsure about any of these requirements and guidance, please contact the PLA Environment Team for advice. See details below.

Additional authorisations required

The Environment Agency (EA) will provide additional information and guidance on carrying out work in or near water and additional advice on the potential need for the appropriate authorisation. Further information and contact details for the EA can be found here.

If an accident has occurred that has caused material or liquids to enter the water please call the emergency line on 0800 80 70 60. 

Further Advice and Information

The Green Blue

The Green Blue is a joint environment programme created by the British Marine Federation and the Royal Yachting Association for anyone who enjoys getting out on the water or whose livelihood depends on it. Guidance has been created to help boat users, boating businesses, sailing clubs and training centres to reduce their impact of their activities on coastal and inland waters.

The Green Blue's "Green Directory" provides a list of products which can be used as safe and environmentally friendly alternative for cleaning boats. See the website for more details.

PLA Environment Team

If you require any further advice or guidance contact the PLA’s Environment team by at environment@pla.co.uk