Monday, November 4, 2019

Comments Requested as Management of the River Thames Comes Up for Review

Manifold Changes Mean a Fresh Look at Promotion and Protection of Waterway
Shipping News Feature

UK – The huge changes which have affected shipping over the past 50 years have touched not just every corner of the industry but had ramifications much further down the supply chain. Now a preliminary, six-week consultation is underway on an update to legislation that affects the use of the capital's waterway as the Port of London Authority (PLA) seeks to revise its promotion and protection of the River Thames.

The original legislation that created the PLA in 1908 was updated in the 1968 Port of London Act and now the proposed changes require the PLA to submit a Harbour Revision Order (HRO) to the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) and ahead of this, the PLA is canvassing all those with an interest in the river for their views so that they can be fully reflected in the final submission.

Various one-off amendments have been made since the last substantial review in 1992, but a more thorough overhaul is now necessary, to fully reflect the challenges of managing an increasingly busy river in the 21st Century. Julie Tankard, the PLA's chief financial officer, observed:

"The Harbour Revision Order is about making sure our statutory powers and duties are appropriate for the modern world. As with all walks of life, technology is rapidly changing day-to-day life on the river. We have to update the legislation to reflect that. It's also an opportunity to ensure our decision-making process is open and transparent. The process is still in its early stages, but from the outset we are keen to hear the opinions of everybody linked to the river."

A document setting out the proposed changes can be seen HERE and it includes the full draft HRO and a marked-up version of the 1968 Port of London Authority Act, indicating where changes are required. There's also a detailed note explaining what the changes involve, and finance plays a large part in the legislation review.

The change which will probably most concern our readers is listed under Section 30 which, if accepted, will lift the exemption on port rates chargeable on goods in transit. The PLA sees the possibility that the river may see an increase in traffic in the coming years, with goods being transhipped to destinations home and abroad using feeder vessels. The PLA wishes to have the ability to raise revenue to manage any upswing in vessel movements.

Those occupying ancient moorings on the river also may have cause for interest. Moorings established prior to September 1857 are currently immune to proceedings under Section 70 of the 1968 Act which involves works being carried out under licence. Vessels not attached ‘to works’ would henceforth need consent as would permanently moored vessels which interfere with the public right of navigation (except short term moorings or those which currently have mooring rights).

Comments on the changes can be sent to the PLA via HRO@pla.co.uk, or by post HRO (Admin, Port of London Authority, London River House, Royal Pier Road, Gravesend, Kent, DA12 2BG) and the closing date for responses is 5.30 pm on Thursday, 5 December 2019.

In addition experts from across the PLA will be available to answer questions at a special drop in session to be at in the Flowers Room at the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET), 2 Savoy Place, London WC2R 0BL, on Thursday 14 November (3.00 pm to 7.00 pm) and, to ensure that the right specialists are on hand to answer all queries, those planning to attend are asked to register their interest in advance.

The PLA will review all submissions to consider what changes to the proposal need to be made, in light of the feedback received and, once a formal application is submitted to the MMO, there will still be opportunities for the public to contribute to the HRO process.