OPLAC Byelaw Submission

Post date: Sep 11, 2015 9:53:54 PM

Below is OPLAC's submission relating to the PLA's proposed bylaw changes (the changes themselves can be viewed here http://pla.co.uk/assets/reviewofthamesbyelaws2012-informalpublicconsultationnotice.pdf)


Dear Mr Knight

Thank you for recent invitation to informally comment on your proposed changes to byelaws. We appreciate the opportunity to do this and I hope you will make use of our comments to moderate what perhaps is an initial over-reaction by the PLA to one incident. I spoke briefly to your CEO Robin Mortimer about these changes at the Thames Vision meeting last Friday; he confirmed my impression that the changes arose from the Isleworth squat boat incident in April.

Therefore I have suggested some wording that might deal with such incidents by using a scalpel rather than a sledgehammer, with the benefit that it might no longer appear to some as the beginning of an assault on the Public's Right to Navigate the tidal Thames. You will find that DBA The Barge Association have similar concerns and have submitted almost (but not quite) identical comments.

(PLA proposed amendments in red):


15 The master of a vessel must not, without the permission of the harbourmaster, cause or permit the vessel:

(b) to obstruct or interfere with navigation, any public access to the Thames or the access to a dock entrance;

We would be interested to know the purpose and thinking behind this change. On the face of it this would seem to turn a simple and sensible byelaw (not to obstruct dock entrances) into something with much wider range. What is meant my "any public access to the Thames"? For example does it mean the public:

· Hand launching a canoe from the riverbank?

· Sitting on the riverbank with their toes in the water?

· At low tide walking along the foreshaw without being obstructed by a moored vessel?

· Feeding the ducks from the riverbank?

· Simply standing on the river bank with a view of the river unimpeded by a moored vessel?

We do not consider that any of these reasons would warrant a permanent ban on any vessel temporarily mooring to the river bank.

We believe this new amendment arises from a recent case of a vessel squatting on the riverbank at Isleworth. We would of course support the removal of squatting vessels. However the amendment as worded seems to be a sledgehammer aimed at a nut. It is already very difficult for barges to find moorings on the tidal Thames in the event of an emergency or if caught out by the tide. The new byelaw would prevent or hinder not just long term squat moorings but also any temporary mooring. Can we suggest the addition of "for a period in excess of 48 hours" to at least the "any public access" part? This would achieve the aim of removing squat boats but allow genuine barges to moor in an emergency or to sit out a tide. We also think the byelaw should clarify what is intended to be meant by 'public access'.


15 (d) to be berthed or moored to any work, structure, post, ring or other thing or place not provided for or unsuitable for that purpose.

The use of the final 'or' means that no vessel could moor to anything which has not explicitly been provided for the purpose of mooring , even if it is suitable for the purpose. It would prohibit barges from mooring to rubbish barges or indeed to anything not specifically provided for the purpose of mooring to, including to riverbank and to other barges legitimately moored and granting their permission. It would also seem to prevent a moored barge owner from mooring his dinghy or runabout alongside their legitimately moored vessel, which is likely to be suitable for that purpose. Again we assume this arises from the squat boat incident mentioned above. Again it would prevent or hinder any emergency or temporary mooring by a barge. We suggest the addition of "for a period in excess of 48 hours" and the replacement of the final "or" with "and"; it may be that a barge or small vessel might want to moor to another barge, with the owner's permission and without obstructing navigation, for a period in excess of 48 hours, and we don't see why that would always need the formal permission of the harbourmaster. As I'm sure you are aware, fees often follow closely behind formal permission.

Best wishes

David Beaumont