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Personal Watercraft Safety

The Thames Estuary is the perfect place to use your Personal Watercraft (PWC). This guide describes established good practice to ensure that you don't endanger yourself, others, or cause harm to the environment.

It is important to know how to stay safe and how to behave with respect to other users when out on the water. By observing the following guidelines, you can stay safe and not endanger others. The Port of London Authority (PLA) regulates the use of PWCs under its river byelaws. To obtain a copy please visit the PLA's website:

When out on the water, you should always be on the lookout for other vessels and people in the water. It is important to know where other vessels are and where they are heading before you make a turn or cross a wake. As a general rule, you should not exceed the speed of 8 knots (10 mph) when your craft is within 200m of the shoreline or a port facility. In congested areas, lower your speed accordingly.

The Do's and Don'ts on a PWC


  • Only launch, moor and land from authorised sites at Wat Tyler Country Park (01268 550 088) and West Shoebury Beach (01702 215000) 
  • Read and observe the byelaws and rules posted at launch sites.
  • Maintain a distance from sensitive wildlife and habitats, particularly during winter periods (September-March) and at high tides.
  • Maintain a steady direction and a slow ‘no wake’ speed if wildlife is encountered.
  • Ensure you have (and carry proof of) adequate public liability insurance.
  • Register with Datatag and display your Datatag Visible ID clearly.
  • Carry correct safety equipment when out on the water.
  • Show consideration for other water users.
  • Consider joining a local PWC club.


  • Use your PWC upstream of Margaretness Point (near Barking Creek).
  • Enter PWC restricted areas.
  • Exceed 8 knots in a designated conservation area, or within 200m of a wharf, jetty, public beach, bathing space or residential property.
  • Harass or chase wildlife.
  • Launch from or approach roosting or nesting sites for birds.
  • Ride at the low water mark where birds may be feeding or where you may erode the bed/submerged vegetation.
  • Decant petrol or use chemical treatments in the water.
  • Ride the bow waves of ships or cross close ahead of them.
  • Generate wake when passing through moorings.

Important Information

How to Report an Incident

In an emergency contact the Coastguard on 999 or VHF channel 16.

If you see any PWC rider acting irresponsibly, endangering other water users or breaking the law, contact the Essex Police Marine Unit on 01245 452815, the Kent Police on 01622 798565, or the PLA Harbour Master on 01474 562212.

Safety Lanyard

Never operate your PWC without the safety lanyard attached to you. The lanyard will cut the engine if you fall from the craft.

Competency Training

Attend an approved training course. The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) holds a one­ day competence course which teaches you how to use your PWC safely, responsibly and with confidence, ensuring that you get the best out of your craft. RYA contact details are provided overleaf.

PWC Clubs

Where possible, join a local PWC club which can offer benefits like the use of private slipways.

Insurance and Safety Equipment

Ensure that you have (and carry proof of) adequate public liability insurance before using your PWC. Ensure that you hold a copy of the registration certificate.
Always carry the correct safety equipment:

  • Personal Equipment – Suitable clothing, buoyancy aid, goggles, safety lanyard, sun-block, foot protection, gloves, whistle.
  • PWC Equipment – First aid kit, full tank of petrol and oil, radio, fire extinguisher, flare pack, rope, anchor, torch, tool kit

Further Advice and Guidance

Ports and marine safety advice:

Wildlife advice and local information:

PWC and water sport bodies:

PWC Clubs:

  • Wat Tyler Country Park: 01268 550 088 (authorised launch site)
  • West Shoebury Beach:  01702 215000 (authorised launch site)

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