Category Archives: River Thames

All going to PLAN

The first week of October was a special occasion when it came to naval visitors to the River Thames as it saw the arrival of three vessels from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Surface Force.

The three ships have been on a long-term deployment as part of China’s desire to promote its global influence and whilst in European waters they have conducted joint exercises with the Russian navy as well as visiting a number of European ports.

The first two vessels to arrive were a pair of Type 054A multi-role frigates in the shape of Huanggang (577) and Yangzhou (578) which are both less than 3 years old.

PLAN Huanggang (3) @ Gallions Reach 02-10-17

PLAN Yangzhou (5) @ Gallions Reach 02-10-17

This class of Frigate carries anti-air, anti-surface and anti-submarine missile launchers as well as a 76mm main gun and close-in weapons systems (CIWS) for self-defence – the ships are also each carrying one Harbin Z-9 SAR / ASW helicopters.

PLAN Huanggang (9) @ Gallions Reach 02-10-17

The Frigates will spend a few days in West India Dock.

PLAN Huanggang (13) @ Gallions Reach 02-10-17

The following video shows the two Frigates arriving on a very windy Thames.

Later that same day the Gaoyouhu (AOR 966), a Qiandaohu-class or Type 903A, replenishment ship arrived in London’s Royal Docks to spend a few days in the King George V dock.

Gaoyouhu AOR 966 (1) @ Gallions Reach 02-10-17

As the Gaoyouhu is a large vessel it took two Svitzer tugs to help maneuver her through the Lock to her mooring in the King George V Dock.

Gaoyouhu AOR 966 (12) @ KGV Lock 03-10-17

Gaoyouhu AOR 966 (5) @ KGV Dock 03-10-17

This ship, which is less than two years old, carries fuel and solid stores and is equipped for Replenishment at Sea (RAS) operations and is also helicopter capable.

Gaoyouhu AOR 966 (9) @ KGV Dock 03-10-17

Updated on 4th October – a trip up to West India Dock to see the two Frigates and their embarked Z-9C helicopters initially yielded another angle on the Gaoyouhu in KGV Dock.

Gaoyouhu AOR 966 (3) @ KGV Dock 04-10-17

It was then over to WID to see the two Frigates that were alongside each other.

PLAN Type 054A Frigates (1) @ West India Dock 04-10-17

PLAN Type 054A Frigates (11) @ West India Dock 04-10-17

The main attraction was that both the embarked Z-9Cs were out on deck, although not best positioned to get clear photographs they are still extremely rare sightings!!

PLAN Type 054A Frigates (15) @ West India Dock 04-10-17

PLAN Harbin Z-9C (21) @ West India Dock 04-10-17

PLAN Harbin Z-9C (14) @ West India Dock 04-10-17

Update 7th October – all three Chinese Navy Warships have now left the Thames in London.

Gaoyouhu AOR 966 (2) @ KGV Dock 07-10-17

Svitzer tugs Bootle and Brunel arrived at the King George V lock early afternoon and then proceeded in to the KGV Dock to tow PLAN Gaoyouhu backwards in to the lock and then out in to the Thames.

Svitzer Bootle + Svitzer Brunel (5) @ KGV Lock 07-10-17

Svitzer Bootle + Svitzer Brunel (5) @ KGV Dock 07-10-17

Gaoyouhu AOR 966 (4) @ KGV Lock 07-10-17

Gaoyouhu AOR 966 (5) @ Gallions Reach 07-10-17

A full video of the tow is shown below.

The two Frigates that had been in West India Dock also passed down river in turn.

PLAN Yangzhou (3) @ Gallions Reach 07-10-17

PLAN Huanggang (8) @ Gallions Reach 07-10-17

As PLAN Huanggang passed by it also provided a chance to check out some of the weapons fit.

PLAN Huanggang (5) @ Gallions Reach 07-10-17

PLAN Huanggang (6) @ Gallions Reach 07-10-17

A few more pictures can be seen here.

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Getting Chili in the Docks

London based company CPBS Marine Services are regular visitors to the KGV Lock in London’s Royal Docks and the latest visit saw the latest addition to their fleet make its first visit.

Chili Dog (1) @ KGV Lock 14-08-17

The Multicat is called Chili Dog in keeping with the canine theme of fleet boat names and boasts a large load area as well as an onboard crane that allows the vessel to support a wide variety of taskings.

ChiliDog (4) @ KGV Lock 14-08-17

Another benefit is that is has a shallow draft and low wheelhouse that allows it to work the tidal Thames and adjacent waterways. More details about the vessel here.

ChiliDog (6) @ KGV Lock 14-08-17

The purpose of today’s visit was to load various items of equipment to support one of the many Thames marine engineering projects. The first item was the unglamourous but essential portaloo!

Chili Dog (12) @ KGV Lock 14-08-17

Then a dive equipment container provided by UMC International and a compressor – both of which were delivered on a HIAB Lorry supplied by Phill Bascombe Transport Ltd.

Lorry (2) @ KGV Lock 14-08-17

Lorry (5) @ KGV Lock 14-08-17

Chili Dog (16) @ KGV Lock 14-08-17

Once everything had been securely placed on board Chili Dog was off up the Thames to the worksite.

Chili Dog (20) @ KGV Lock 14-08-17

Chili Dog (2) @ Gallions Reach 14-08-17

More pictures can be seen here.

Viking longboats on the Thames

Not Vikings of the axe wielding variety but ships belonging to the Viking Ocean Cruises company which started operations in 2015.  This year London was visited by all three of the ships that make up its current fleet of ocean going cruise liners.

Viking Sea (2) @ Gallions Reach 10-07-17

Of the three ships the Viking Sky was making it’s visit visit to the Thames and as with the other ships it spent a few days moored at the Greenwich Ship Tier.

Viking Sky (3) @ Gallions Reach 30-06-17

Officially classified as “Small Cruise Ships” they are still a tight squeeze through the Thames Barrier and have to moor at Greenwich.

Carrying 930 guests they have an overall length of 745 feet, a beam of 95 feet and a draft of 21 feet and the gross tonnage being almost 48000 tonnes.

Viking Star (4) @ Gallions Reach 18-06-17

A fourth ship, the Viking Spirit, is due to enter the fleet in 2018 and hopefully will pay a visit to the Thames next summer – further ships are also planned.

Viking Sky (4) @ Woolwich Reach 02-07-17

More pictures of the ships on their various visits to the Thames can be seen here.

Rendez-Vous review

So all but the last two sailing ships have now left the Thames after a busy Easter weekend of tall ship action on the river Thames in London, the background to the event can be found here.

Tall Ships (10) @ Woolwich 11-04-17

It is always nice to see the tall ships visiting London and quite a few new ones were seen as part of the combined  Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta / Sail Royal Greenwich event.

Tall Ships (13) @ Greenwich 16-04-17

Inevitably with such events some of the anticipated participants weren’t able to attend and there were a limited number of the larger A class vessels but that didn’t detract from the spectacle of seeing 26 vessels from 8 countries on the Thames.

Tall Ship (56) @ River Thames 13-04-17

As with previous Sail Greenwich events some of the vessels ran excursions along the Thames and there was a firework display each evening.

Tall Ship (82) @ River Thames 13-04-17

Tall Ship (43) @ River Thames 13-04-17
RDV2017 Fireworks @ Woolwich 15-04-17 (18)
RDV2017 Fireworks @ Woolwich 15-04-17 (19)

Some additional pictures of the Saturday evening’s fireworks at Woolwich can be seen here.

The event culminated in Parade of Sail from Greenwich down river with the Rendez-Vous 2017 race participants heading to Torbay and the other vessels going on to their next destinations.

Tall Ships (5) @ Greenwich 16-04-17

Tall Ships (31) @ Greenwich 16-04-17

Tall Ships (45) @ Greenwich 16-04-17

More pictures of the Parade of Sail can be seen here and the full set of pictures from the event can be seen here.

There will be several more Tall Ship visitors to London during 2017 and lets hope it isn’t too long until we see another large gathering on the Thames.

London turns Navy

The past week has seen no less than 4 Royal Navy vessels in the capital with 3 different Archer-class patrol vessels as well as a Type 23 Frigate in the shape of HMS St Albans.

The following video shows HMS St Albans’ early morning arrival on the Thames

All four of the vessels were in London to help mark both International Women’s Day and National Apprentice Week – the 3 patrol boats each being under the command of a female captain.

HMS Exploit P167 (2) @ Gallions Reach 05-03-17

During their stay HMS Exploit, HMS Smiter & HMS Explorer spent time both alongside HMS President near Tower Bridge but also in West India Dock where HMS St Albans had been berthed.

On departure HMS St Albans had her Merlin helicopter parked on her rear deck, the helicopter having been in the hanger on arrival.

ZH861 on HMS St Albans F83 (2) @ Gallions Reach 10-03-17

It was nice to see so many RN ships in London and looking forward to the next Navy visitor to the Thames.

HMS Smiter P272 + HMS Explorer P164 (1) @ Gallions Reach 09-03-17

Some more photos can be seen here.

FGS Oker visits London

Making a welcome addition to the variety of naval vessels that visit London this last weekend saw a visit from a spy ship that had arrived on a dark and foggy night.

FGS Oker A53 (1) @ Gallions Reach 13-02-17

More accurately FGS Oker is a SIGINT / ELINT reconnaissance ship, one of three German Navy Oste-class fleet service ships engaged in this role.

FGS Oker A53 (7) @ Gallions Reach 13-02-17

No sinister reasons behind her visit to London as she is on a multi-port training cruise and had previously visited both Devonport and Portsmouth naval bases and after London was heading to Cork in Ireland.

FGS Oker A53 (10) @ Gallions Reach 13-02-17

It will be interesting to see what the next naval visitor will be…..

#dlr_blog review of 2016

2016 was another varied and interesting year in the #dlr_blog area of coverage with lots of vessels coming up the Thames of all shapes and sizes and quite a few first time visitors although there was a marked reduction in the number of bulk cargo carriers visiting Silvertown.

The Royal Docks were busy although most of this was traffic generated by  building works or events taking place at the Excel exhibition centre rather than activities specifically utilising the water.

So, on with the review.

January

Most of the movements at the beginning of the month were connected with the annual London Boat show that takes place at the Excel exhibition centre and one of the features was the debut of the Sunseeker 131 in the shape of Zozo.Sunseeker 131 (12) @ Gallions Reach 06-01-16

Towards the end of the month three ships of the Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 (SNMG1) spent the weekend in the Royal Docks, a rare but welcome visit. A full report can be seen here.NATO Frigates (2) @ RVD 30-01-16

February

This was a quieter month but did see the year’s first visit of a Royal Navy Archer Class patrol boat in the form of HMS Trumpeter – she and her sister vessels were to make several more visits during the year.HMS Trumpeter P294 (8) @ Gallions Reach 13-02-16

The month also saw the year’s first cargo ship to use Murphy’s wharf in Charlton on one of the occasional export runs from the middle Thames. For this trip the Celtic Mariner was in use.
Celtic Mariner (3) @ Gallions Reach 23-02-16

March

The biennial Oceanology International event took place at Excel and attracted a number of visiting vessels of various shapes and sizes including the RV Mintis that is owned and operated by the Klaipeda University in Lithuania. A full report on the vessels attending the event can be seen here.
Mintis (7) @ Royal Docks 12-03-16

The KGV Dock and Lock continued to be used for a variety of things from the long-term storage of unoccupied Houseboats through to the loading of marine engineering equipment onto barges, one such visit saw Thamescraft Drydocking’s multicat Devour bring in a pontoon to load up some dredging equipment.
Devour (4) @ KGV Lock 24-03-16

April

The middle of the month saw three ships from the German Navy’s 3rd German Minesweeping Squadron arrive on the Thames to spend a few days in West India Dock where they were open to the public – a report of a visit on-board the ships can be seen here.
German Navy Minesweepers @ Gallions Reach 15-04-16

The end of the month also saw the first cruise ship of the season arrive on the Thames for a stay alongside HMS Belfast in the shape of L’Austral.
L'Austral (5) @ Woolwich Reach 30-04-16

May

May was a very busy and varied month that included visiting warships, cargo ships, tugs, luxury yachts, tall ships and cruise liners.

Viking Cruises brought their 2nd new ship to Greenwich for her christening making her the largest vessel to be named on the Thames, a full report can be seen here.
Viking Sea (23) @ River Thames 05-05-16

A slightly more unusual vessel seen on the Thames and in the Royal Docks during the month was an amphibious vehicle called the Humdinga, it was in London for some demonstration runs and promotional work and is one of a range of vehicles produced by Gibbs, the manufacturer. See here for a full report.
Humdinga (20) @ Bargehouse Road 19-05-16

June

Two sail training ships paid a visit to West India Dock during the month with the USCG’s Eagle and the Mexican Navy’s Cuauhtemoc spending a few days in West India Dock. See here for a full report.
ARM Cuauhtemoc + USCG Eagle (1) @ West India Dock 09-06-16

There is a huge amount of engineering and development work taking place on and around the Thames in London and this is bringing in a number of visiting tugs, pontoons and workboats but is also encouraging local firms to add new vessels to their fleets.SWS Suffolk (1) @ KGV Lock 27-06-16

As part of the Thames Tideway tunnel project the month saw a visit by the tug Forth Trojan with crane barge Forth Olympian and this was assisted by S Walsh’s new pusher tug SWS Suffolk. A full report can be seen here.

July

This month saw the arrival of two new tugs for the Livett’s Group fleet in the shape of Christian and Felix joining a growing number of vessels operating on the Thames that feature a hydraulic lifting wheelhouse that allows them to pass under low bridges but also to see over loaded barges.
Felix + Christian (4) @ KGV Lock 04-07-16

The first outing for the new tugs was to assist with Virgin Media’s #Bethefastest promotion – details can be seen here.

The month also saw the very rare visit of a Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force training ship, the JS Kashima, which was one of three Japanese ships undertaking a round-the-world training cruise.
JS Kashima TV-3508 (4) @ Gallions Reach 31-07-16

August

The Royal Docks was quite busy during the month with two large pontoons and huge amounts of wood being used for the 350th anniversary commemorations of the Fire of London with all the setup work taking place in the docks, a full report can be seen here.
London's Burning (12)

The new Blackfriars Pier also spent a few weeks being fitted out in the Docks and the Totally Thames festival’s ‘Floating Dreams’ installation was also constructed here.

Meanwhile, out on the Thames the everyday working vessels continued to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week carrying building materials and waste to and from London.
Charlemagne (2) @ Gallions Reach 22-08-16

September

London was visited by the sinister looking, and expensive, superyacht A at the start of the month. An example of the more modern type of ships that visit the Thames.
A (3) @ Gallions Reach 03-09-16

The more traditional tall ships visited Greenwich again operating pleasure trips and holding fireworks displays each of the three evenings they were in town.
Oosterschelde (1) @ Gallions Reach 17-09-16

A community art project also took place in the area with an artist building a ship out of recycled wood on the site of the former Harland & Woolf shipyard, a report of the build process can be seen here and the launch can be seen here.
Seadog (6) @ Gallions Reach 18-09-16

October

Tugs + Good Hotel (28) @ KGV Lock 13-10-16

This month saw lots of activity in the Royal Docks as the new floating hotel was delivered on the back of a semi-submersible transport barge that was almost as wide as the KGV Lock. Blog reports of the arrival of the hotel can be seen here and the departure of the empty transporter barge can be seen here.

The following video shows the barge leaving the Royal Docks.

The month also saw visits by two warships and two luxury yachts including a visit from Lady S.
Lady S (1) @ Gallions Reach 19-10-16

November

November began with a number of military vessels paying a visit to London which included two University Royal Naval Unit (URNU) Archer Class patrol vessels that took part in the Lord Mayor’s show.
HMS Smiter P272 (7) @ Gallions Reach 11-11-16

A French Navy Offshore Patrol vessel also paid a visit during the early part of the month.
FS Flamant P676 (1) @ Gallions Reach 10-11-16

Later in the month the SS Robin pontoon was temporarily moved from it’s normal berth in the Royal Docks due to filming taking place and it was returned a week later – a report can be seen here.
Maddog + SS Robin (9) @ Royal Victoria Dock 07-11-16

December

Arriving at the beginning of the month was the Belgian Navy’s sail training vessel Zenobe Gramme, quite a rare visitor to the Thames.

BNS Zenobe Gramme A958 (7) @ Gallions Reach 02-12-16

The year ends as it started with boats taking part in the London Boat Show which is held at the Excel exhibition centre in early January.

Princess Yachts (8) @ KGV 14-12-16

Here is a video of some of the yachts arriving in the Royal Docks.

That concludes the review of 2016, some big events to look forward to in the coming year including a large number of tall ships for the Tall Ship race in April and naval vessels for the defence exhibition in September – follow #dlr_blog for updates.

A few vessel statistics for 2016 (some vessels visited more than once):

Bulk cargo ships     22
Naval vessels           25
Cruise ships             10
Sailing ships            22