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PLA Charges: Proposals for 2019

Our aim is to provide cost effective services which encourage greater use of the Thames, in line with the Thames Vision. The reference figure we use for changes to charges is the September Retail Price Index (RPI) inflation rate, which for September 2018 was 3.3%.

As context for the proposals, 2018 has seen a positive year for trade on the Thames. To ensure that this continued growth can be accommodated safely, alongside the high levels of service customers expect, we have made the following substantial investments in:

  • our pilotage operations, continued recruitment and the introduction of new IT systems, improving pilot availability and meeting the major increase in demand for pilotage services;
  • the installation of a new radar tower at Northfleet, covering one of the busiest reaches of the Thames for large ships; and
  • the acquisition of a new hydrographic survey vessel, Thame to enable us efficiently to meet increasing demand for hydrographic services.

Looking to the future, our proposals for 2019 charges are made mindful of the inevitable question marks over economic growth that an exit from the EU presents.

For 2019, we propose to introduce varying changes which will: support greater volumes of cargo on the Thames; reflect our investment in pilotage operations; and support operators’ endeavours to operate environmentally cleaner vessels. In summary the main changes are as follows:

Conservancy & port charges

  • To encourage growth in cargo volumes, the conservancy charges on cargo – will be one per cent below September RPI, with an increase of 2.3%.
  • Conservancy charges on vessels – will be increased in line with September RPI, by 3.3%.
  • The discount on port charges for vessels with lower emissions (the ‘green tariff’) will be raised from 5% to 10%. To be eligible for the discount, a vessel must have an Environmental Ship Index score of 30 or above.

Pilotage charges

  • To reflect the continued and substantial investment in improving service performance, we will be increasing pilotage fees by one per cent above the September RPI, 4.3%. We intend to retain high levels of recruitment and retention of pilots across the economic cycle to avoid future problems in meeting demand.
  • We will target a punctual service level greater than 98% across the year.
  • To encourage vessel operators to take up pilotage exemption certificates (PEC) for masters, charges for PEC exams will remain flat
  • Boarding and landing charges will rise by up to 10% - principally passing on the additional charges being levied on us by Harwich Haven for provision of cutter transfer of pilots to pilot stations.
  • The Pilots National Pension Fund (PNPF) levy will continue to be 7.5%, the same as 2018.

We are taking the opportunity to simplify our charges where possible, for example, on pilotage, adopting a single rate for vessels movements within port and penalty charges for changed ETAs and ETDs. Alongside this simplification, the broad principle of moving towards cost recovery will also be followed. In vessel surveying, the charging structure will be simplified and adjusted up by a maximum of 5%, with the aim of seeing the service break even. Our surveying service will continue to be extremely competitive compared to other providers.

Charges simplification is being worked through across PLA departments and will be reflected in the new charges schedule, which we will publish on our website by the end of the year.

Our plans for 2019 charges will be finalised in early December. If you have any comments on the proposals, it would be really helpful if we could receive them by Friday, 30 November, please. If you want to feedback to us, you can do so direct to: glenda.frost@pla.co.uk

The new charges will be effective from 1 January 2019; final details will be reflected in the new charges schedule on our website. We will email the new schedules to everyone who receives electronic invoices.