These are questions that we’re often asked. Click on the question to see the answer.
There are strict maximum speed limits as follows:
- 12 knot speed limit between Wandsworth Bridge and Margaretness ((just east of London City Airport)
8 knot speed limit above (ie west of) Wandsworth Bridge (and in all creeks and off Southend – in the inshore area)
Anyone navigating must ensure a safe speed at all times in all locations. This includes taking into account prevailing weather and tide conditions; size and type of vessel; location; and the safety of others.
Even at lower speed some vessels create unacceptable wash. Be aware of your wash – eg near piers, smaller craft, or riverworks. London VTS will broadcast information on local speed restrictions during regular bulletins on VHF Channel 14.
All users of recreational craft need to be aware they may come across some commercial vessels operating at higher speed – this is only permitted for certain ‘authorised vessels’ which have a special Certificate of Compliance enabling them to operate at higher speed in two specific ‘High Speed Craft Zones’ between Margaretness and Wandsworth Bridge.
Put simply, a small boat used only for your own personal recreation or leisure use does not normally need a specific licence to navigate on the tidal Thames. If you are in any doubt about your craft, please contact us for guidance. We encourage all recreational and leisure boat users to sign-up to the Tidal Thames Navigators Club – at http://www.boatingonthethames.co.uk/Join This is free of charge and provides access to:
- PLA Notices to Mariners and e-Newsletters
- PLA Recreational User Guide and Tide Tables
- Recreational briefings and discounts on PLA Charts and publications
Yes. The Thames is a challenging and busy river. It can be harsh and unforgiving. Everyone on small recreational boats and craft should wear a lifejacket at all times. See: Detailed advice on lifejackets is available here.
Guidance about the location of short term visitor moorings and who the operator is can be viewed on our Boating on the Thames website, which also has information about pump out, fuel facilities and other services. Please note: You must ensure you have contacted mooring providers in advance of your journey.
The London Port Health Authority is responsible for matters including noise from vessels. You can contact them here.
The tidal Thames is a very challenging and potentially hazardous river. It is not suitable for a novice. If you are new to boating or inexperienced with your craft, you should first go on a suitable course, for example one run by the RYA. More details at www.rya.org.uk
Those experienced with their vessel need to consider safety carefully. For example:
- ensure the watertight integrity of your vessel and be prepared for the water conditions you will be navigating through. The Thames is categorised by the MCA as Category C waters - you should expect waves up to 1.2 metres.
- plan your passage carefully.
- read the current Notices to Mariners for the area of your intended passage and consider them in your passage plan.
- consider where you will be mooring and make your mooring bookings well in advance.
- check all equipment – eg VHF, navigation lights, lifejackets etc.
Houseboat wash complaints are handled by our Harbour Master team and should be reported using this report form.
There are hazards on the foreshore: it should not be regarded as a pleasure ‘beach’. Normal guidance is to avoid it and instead enjoy the river safely from dry land at embankment level.
Anyone visiting the foreshore does so entirely at their own risk, accepting it is a dangerous place and dangers may not be immediately apparent.
Those on the foreshore take personal responsibility for their safety and of any accompanying minors, and must satisfy themselves that the route taken is safe and suitable. All steps and stairs have slip and trip hazards and can be in poor repair. There is raw sewage on the foreshore. Wear strong footwear.
The river is cold and deep with fast currents. It rises and falls by seven metres. Check tide times carefully on our website http://tidepredictions.pla.co.uk/. Make sure you can get off the foreshore quickly - watch the tide and wash from passing boats and make sure appropriate steps are close. ‘Paddling’ or anything that risks entering the river should be avoided.
Anyone searching the tidal Thames foreshore from Teddington to the Thames Barrier - in any way for any reason - must hold a current foreshore permit from the Port of London Authority. This includes all searching, metal detecting, ‘beachcombing’, scraping and digging. Click here for more information and to apply for a permit.
Urgent environmental issues: Phone our 24-hour VTS duty officer on: 0203 260 7711. The incident may require an immediate response by the Harbour Masters. Be prepared to give details about the location of the issue. Further guidance at can be found here.
The Thames provides a fantastic backdrop for film and TV programme makers and has featured in many iconic moments in movies, from Harry Potter films through to James Bond's The World Is Not Enough. All filming activity (and all commercial still photography) on the tidal Thames requires a filming licence. This includes ALL filming involving boats and vessels and filming on piers and other structures in the river. We can also advise on the possibilities for safe filming activity on the Thames foreshore (ie: the part of the river exposed at low tide). Further guidance at can be found here.
The tidal Thames is the busiest inland waterway in the UK and the river is used by a wide variety of boats and ships ranging from the world’s largest container ships to numerous passenger boats and small recreational craft. The river’s bridges, embankment areas and piers are popular areas for its passengers and the passing general public. The river is also home to high profile attractions, high security buildings and structures, and a vast amount of construction work.
The PLA has a statutory responsibility to the safety of all of those using the River Thames and therefore, needs to be notified about any intended UAV flight over the river.
Those wishing to fly a UAV over the Thames should notify us at least 3 working days in advance, to enable us to assess the potential impact it might have on the safety of river users. Notify us at your earliest opportunity, completing as much detail as possible through our Drone Online Notification Portal.
No. Personal Water Craft (PWC) / jet skis are not allowed anywhere on the Thames in the London area. In other words, they are strictly prohibited anywhere in west, central or east London. There are a small number of designated locations in the Thames Estuary off the Essex and Kent coasts where they are permitted - further guidance at can be found here.
There are restrictions for some types of craft. Our normal advice is for non-powered craft and inexperienced boaters to avoid the very busy central London stretch. The River above Putney is relatively benign. But below Putney and into central London it is much more hazardous. It becomes increasingly ‘sea-like’ and small craft have to navigate in areas of high traffic density – including large and fast powered vessels, some with limited manoeuvrability and others generating significant wash. Wave heights of a metre are easily possible. More guidance on your specific activity at: Boating on the Thames.
Swimming in the tidal Thames is not an activity which the Port of London Authority encourages. The tidal Thames is a fast-flowing waterway and the busiest inland waterway in the UK accommodating over 20,000 ship movements and hosting over 400 events each year. It is for these reasons the PLA restricts swimming throughout the majority of its jurisdiction for the safety of swimmers and river users.
The PLA allows swimming to take place upriver of Putney Bridge through to Teddington. It is permitted in this area only but be reminded that it is still a busy section of the tidal Thames for leisure and recreational activities. Swimming across the river is not permitted anywhere. Additional guidance and information about locating suitable swimming venues can be found here.
All events or race ideas need to be discussed with the PLA at the earliest stage, however at least four weeks’ notice is required – to ensure the safety of the event and that of other river users in this very busy and safety critical river. More information can be found here.
Our advice is to find a suitable and safe location next to the river, and a quiet time of the day. Please do not place the container or any plastic in the water. We request ashes are not scattered from bridges. Additional guidance is published by the Environment Agency.
We highly recommend you carry one. VHF is a useful navigational aid and can be used to ‘listen and learn’ from other transmissions so that you can be aware of traffic movements. In addition, London VTS may need to contact you about a particular vessel movement or convey important safety information. A VHF (particularly with DSC functionality) could be a lifesaver in an emergency situation. Ensure you have the appropriate qualifications and licences to carry an operate a VHF.
Only vessels more than 13.7m are required to have operational VHF and maintain a continuous listening watch on the appropriate VHF channel (see London VTS.) There are exemptions for narrow boats above Brentford and vessels travelling in convoy – see our recreational users guide or our General Directions for more details.
Live tides are available via the PLA's Tidal Thames app, which is free to download and available here.
We also have a wealth of information on tides and tidal predictions, which you can find at this link. You can use the Tide prediction tool to select a specific gauge and date.
If instead you would prefer a printed copy of the tide tables, you can purchase one in our online shop for £3.00, including postage.
It is entirely possible to fish along the Thames within the correct seasons, and with a rod licence, providing the land owner has given you permission. The Environment Agency are the best people to contact.
You will need to buy a fishing rod licence to fish for freshwater species along the tidal Thames. More information about fishing licences for the Thames can be found here.
There are a many fishing clubs on the estuary. For example: Thames Angling Conservancy.
Sea angling is also popular below the Thames Barrier, there are a number of boats that will take groups out onto the Thames in both Essex and Kent.
Magnet fishing in the tidal Thames is not allowed -- even with a Foreshore Permit. This is because of potential hazards to navigation, the environment and the safety of individuals involved and other river users.
The Port of London Authority hosts public meetings throughout the year. Find out more about our events here.