Port of Call 2

Visiting The Port of London

Spend a little time on, or around Tower Bridge, and you’ll see a lot of activity, not as in the past when this part of the Port of London was a teeming mass of cargo ships and barges but there’s certainly more movement than a few years ago. Not only has an effort been put into promoting the Thames as a cultural and recreational asset but the ecological and economical value of transporting materials to and from construction sites along the river is now an essential part of today’s thinking.

There are tourist boats; tugs; yachts, from small to super-sized; RIBs; Police and RNLI launches; Port of London vessels; and historic ships, the most famous being HMS BELFAST, a popular place for visiting ships to moor alongside. Downstream from Tower Bridge you can see Butler’s Wharf Pier and St. George’s Stairs Tier, both often used as moorings on the south bank, and HMS PRESIDENT, a Royal Navy shore base, faces them on the opposite side. The area covers what is known as the Pool of London, and the part upstream from Tower Bridge as far as London Bridge is known as the Upper Pool. Large ships on a scheduled visit to that part of the river, have to book a Bridge Lift at least twenty-four hours in advance but many are fixed a long time before that and you can see the names of expected ships on the above link. Here below you can meet four of our recent visitors.

In August, 2019, HMS BELFAST permanently moored in the Upper Pool, received a berth mate almost as large as herself: the elegant 274 cabin cruise ship OCEAN MAJESTY. She needed to be carefully guided in by two towage tugs before passengers were able to make their way ashore, via a gangway to HMS BELFAST. Her Bridge Lift times for arrival and departure already reserved, she is scheduled to return to London later this year on September 13.

OCEAN MAJESTY, stern facing upstream, moored alongside HMS BELFAST
Bunker barge OASIS attending to OCEAN MAJESTY as admiring traffic passes by
Moored against a famous London backcloth, OCEAN MAJESTY is ready to depart


From time to time official visits by Royal Navy vessels take place and in February 2020, HMS TYNE based in Portsmouth, made London her port of call. Her main role patrolling the sea from South Shields to the Bay of Biscay, is to protect fish stocks but she is also involved with “environmental protection, search and rescue, and maritime security”, which keeps her very busy, “spending nine out of every ten days of the year at sea”. She came to London for a three-day tour moored alongside HMS BELFAST where, among others, she hosted visits for potential recruits and Naval Reservists from the London area, based at HMS PRESIDENT.

HMS TYNE well camouflaged against HMS BELFAST
Port of London vessel SOUTHWARK on patrol passing HMS TYNE
London Eye cruise vessel MV SILVER BONITO in her new pink livery, contrasting with the discreet grey of HMS TYNE and HMS BELFAST
MPS Police launch passing by on patrol


… a Northern Lighthouse Vessel, is a multi-function ship “equipped with a helicopter pad, dynamic positioning, a thirty tonne crane, and a hydrographic survey suite.” Based in Oban, she operates on behalf of the Northern Lighthouse Board (NLB) off the Scottish and Isle of Man coasts, finding any possible dangers to shipping in the form of wrecks, movement of shoals, and all types of hazardous floating debris. She is also used for conducting buoy operations and maintaining the NLB’s 206 lighthouses that have guided seafarers through the Manx and Scottish waters for more than two centuries. In addition, she takes part in annual training exercises to practice rescue scenarios in the case of a submarine accident.

NLV PHAROS and HMS BELFAST framed by Tower Bridge

Her visit to the Thames, as an important guest taking part in London’s International Shipping week from September 7 – 13, 2019, was an opportunity for the NLB to profile her work and to make contacts through a series of receptions and seminars hosted on board including events for the Met Office, the UK Chamber of Shipping, and the Department for Transport. This was deemed a success and for those who saw her during her week’s stay alongside HMS BELFAST it was pleasure to see such a fine ship in the centre of London.

Tourists on City Cruises vessel MILLENNIUM TIME look back in admiration
Bateaux London’s floating restaurant SYMPHONY approaching NLV PHAROS and HMS BELFAST


A golden super yacht, came to call in on the 2019 London Fashion Week to raise the profile of the Bellami hair extension company. All blinged up, her lower decks were wrapped in a startling coat of gold chrome vinyl, which attracted more than a few derisory comments from Londoners on her *look at me* flashiness. She was certainly an eye-catcher. Yet I rather liked the way she seemed to colour-match Butler’s Wharf quite neatly where I saw her on October 5th. Ultra-glamourous, she is fitted with six luxury rooms for up to a dozen guests, a hair salon, spa, sundeck, pool, jacuzzi and a glass waterfall.

Super yacht BELLAMI joins DIXIE QUEEN at Butler’s Wharf
BELLAMI seen from Tower Bridge
Not the only visitor. Beyond BELLAMI is the three -masted sailing ship STAD AMSTERDAM
BELLAMI seen from beneath Tower Bridge.


Further information
Click here for the Port of London table of ship movements and here for their 2020 Cruise ship Diary.
Follow HMS TYNE on Twitter @hms_tyne