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Radar Upgrade Improves Protection of Thames Barrier

The Port of London Authority (PLA) has completed the latest stage in its radar upgrade programme. The installation of a new, state-of-the-art unit on its communications tower at Beckton, East London helps with co-ordination, control and safety of shipping through the Thames Barrier.

The new radar is part of the PLA’s 18-strong radar network that covers the Thames from the North Sea and the Dover Strait approaches to Greenwich. The Beckton radar covers the eastern part of the Thames Barrier Control Zone and its approaches, ensuring that radar surveillance between Gallions Reach and Halfway Reach is maintained. It feeds data direct to the PLA’s Thames Barrier Navigation Centre only two miles away at Woolwich.

The Beckton radar is vital to the co-ordination, control and safety of shipping and other river traffic through the Environment Agency’s Thames Barrier. The Barrier has closed a record 50 times this winter and the Environment Agency has contributed a significant percentage of the funding for the overall Beckton project costs, as required under the 1972 Thames Barrier and Flood Prevention Act.

Kevin Gregory, PLA vessel traffic services manager says:

"The operational benefits of this radar are significant. The high definition plots enable it to pick out small vessels and their outline, to the extent that vessel shapes and even tug towing configurations are more defined. It complements the existing Thames Automatic Identification System, which gives us excellent oversight of all vessels as they approach the Thames Barrier.”

The 21-foot long antenna of the Terma Scanter 5102 radar, which weighs 400kg, was hoisted onto the 65-metre high tower, led by PLA's specialist navigation systems team, in a carefully planned and executed operation. This latest addition represents the third of the new technology radars in the local network of five in the Thames Barrier Control Zone.

The radar antenna hoist was itself two months in the planning and involved the PLA planning and civil engineering teams.

The Scanter 5102 radar uses solid state technology that results in better performance and quality while requiring a fraction of the power compared to older models. It operates in a completely different way to traditional marine radars; it can be likened to three current radar systems rolled into one, which improves overall performance in all weathers.

Garry Shaw, PLA’s head of navigation systems, said:

“The Beckton lift was very much about but maintaining service operation whilst engineering works took place around live systems.

“Maintaining our network of radars can involve working in extraordinary environments. Some of our radars are on wind farms. For us, it’s just part of the job.”

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Contact: Port of London Authority | Email: webenquiries@pla.co.uk | 01474 562 251

Notes to Editors:

  1. The Port of London Authority (PLA) is responsible for navigational safety on 95 miles of the tidal Thames from Teddington in west London, through the capital, and out to the sea. The tidal Thames is home to the UK’s second biggest port, busiest inland waterway for passengers and freight, and a centre for tourism, sport and leisure activities.

  2. Technical info on Scanter 5102 radar: http://www.terma.com/media/155663/small_target_detection_test_whitepaper.pdf

  3. More information about the Thames Barrier Control Zone: http://www.boatingonthethames.co.uk/Thames-Barrier

  4. More information about London Vessel Traffic Services: http://www.pla.co.uk/Safety/Vessel-Traffic-Services-VTS