Drink Driving on the Thames

MQT on 2014-10-22
Session date: 
October 22, 2014
Question By: 
Fiona Twycross
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Do you think there should be restrictions on drink driving when operating boats on the Thames?


Answer for Drink Driving on the Thames

Answer for Drink Driving on the Thames

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Legislation already exists for drink driving on the River Thames for commercial vessels. These are covered by the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003 and the Port of London Byelaws.

  • Part 4 of Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003 covers the offences in relation to shipping - 'drink and drugs'. The act creates offences for Commercial masters and crew under
  • Section 78 - Professional Staff on duty,
  • Section 79 - Professional Staff off duty, and
  • Section 80 Non - Professionals - relates to private vessels however this section of the act is not yet enacted (live)

A further offence exists for both commercial and recreational under the Port of London Authority (PLA) Byelaws:

  • Thames Byelaws 2012 - River Byelaw 9 makes it an offence for the master of a vessel to navigate the vessel whilst unfit by reason of drink or drugs. The PLA Harbourmasters have powers to breathalyse and to direct vessels to a mooring or area to investigate and prevent a continuance of the offence.

This Byelaw has yet to be tested at court. Further restrictions can be placed on drunken vessel masters by the PLA Harbourmaster, who can impose a special direction on any vessel which is causing a danger to navigational safety. Police are unable to invoke this power, but would work closely with the PLA if a vessel raised concerns.


Finally, there is also no equivalent of Section 163 Road Traffic Act 1988 (the power to stop a vehicle) available for police to use on the Thames. This can create challenges for policing, and again, police would work closely with the PLA to stop any vessel causing concern.


Further byelaws or legislation would be a matter for the Port of London Authority and Department of Transport respectively.