The PORT OF LONDON extends for a distance of 70 miles on the Thames. Its landward limit is a point 265 yards below Teddington Lock, and the seaward limit is a line drawn from Havengore Creek (in Essex) to Warden Point (in Kent). Above London Bridge the river is principally a navigation for barges and other craft of light draught, although a few specially constructed steamers of 1200 tons proceed as far as Wandsworth. For sea-going ships generally the port begins below London Bridge (at the Pool), and all the docks are within 10 miles of that point, except Tilbury Docks, which are 26 miles down the river. The only docks on the south side of the river are the Surrey Commercial Docks.
The Port of London has passed through the same phases as other great economic and social interests of the metropolis. The various docks, wharves, and quays were established by private enterprise and were long administered as private concerns, under little public control and without mutual consideration. In 1909 the joint-stock companies owning the principal docks were bought out by Government for ï¿½22,000,000 and the entire port, with the exception of the Regent's Canal Dock, was placed under the Port of London Authority, which has 10 appointed members, 18 elected by the payers of port-dues, owners, of river-craft, and wharfingers, and an elected chairman. The powers of the Watermen's Company and of the Thames Conservancy Board as regards the Lower Thames were likewise taken over by the Authority. The dock-estate of the Authority is 2993 acres, of which 730 are water, with 33 miles of quays. The wharves and jetties on the river-banks still remain private property; they are estimated to have 15 miles of quayage. A very extensive scheme of improvement is now under way.
Apart from the prodigious coastwise trade, London imported and exported in 1924 goods to the value of ï¿½677,000,000, i.e. about a quarter of the total for the United Kingdom. The tonnage of shipping that entered and left the port with cargo was 26,613,102; but this is still considerably short of the pre-war figure. About 63% of this tonnage used the docks, the remainder being accommodated in the river. The principal cargoes are grain, timber, wool, meat, tobacco, sugar, tea, wines, and spirits.