Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80 - 91)



  80. When you talk about several weeks, what do you have in your own mind?
  (Mr Reeves) I hope I did not say several weeks.

  81. The next few weeks.
  (Mr Reeves) I think what I meant to say was that we are developing some ideas and we shall have a discussion with the industry on some of these issues and we are going to issue a discussion paper particularly focusing on the container market.

  82. How successful do you think the ports industry is at the moment?
  (Mr Wadsworth) We have a very successful industry which we can be proud of. It is a very efficient industry, it is certainly amongst the most efficient in Europe, as is demonstrated by its successful track record in competing with European ports, notwithstanding the differences in subsidy practice, which we have spoken about earlier. It is a growing industry, in some sectors growing strongly, and we believe that it also demonstrates some of the best standards in relation to environmental issues that you can find.

  83. To what extent does capacity exceed supply or the other way round?
  (Mr Wadsworth) We believe that the capacity shortfalls prospectively arise mainly in the container and ro-ro sectors.

  84. Is that going to prove a constraint upon trade?
  (Mr Wadsworth) If there is no way of providing additional capacity, yes.

  85. Has the Government suggested any way in which it would provide additional capacity? Are there barriers to it? Planning difficulties?
  (Mr Wadsworth) Yes, of course there are planning cases every time to expanding capacity and environmental issues as well. There are four quite substantial development proposals either in front of us or in the near horizon in the container sector which will come before us for a decision and therefore the plans are being made by the industry to expand the capacity. The issues will have to go to local public inquiry and be debated.

  86. That is specific instances. Are you really saying that you do not foresee a problem in the future? Capacity and organisation will match exactly, need and capacity will be balanced.
  (Mr Wadsworth) It is important that the customers should drive these decisions and that the ports should respond to their customers. If they feel that they can only provide adequate capacity by expanding their facilities they need to put forward specific proposals to do that and indeed to raise finance to do it. That is what they are in the process of doing and they will then come before government to consider the wider issues which are raised.

Mr Bennett

  87. You just said how successful the British ports industry is. It has virtually been wiped off the map has it not by Rotterdam? If you look at Rotterdam it would perhaps be a premier league team. What is the best a British port can do? Something like a third division one.
  (Mr Wadsworth) No, that is not true at all. Felixstowe is very much in the first division for example.

  88. But not in the premier league.
  (Mr Wadsworth) It is not as large as Rotterdam but you have to take into account the fact that the hinterland of Rotterdam is effectively the whole of continental Europe and the hinterland of Felixstowe is simply the UK. Therefore it is not a criticism of Felixstowe.

  89. Was not part of the idea of having the Channel Tunnel that we would actually be in a position to compete?
  (Mr Wadsworth) The Channel Tunnel provides another alternative on the short sea. There has been very strong growth in that sector.


  90. Is it not true that Felixstowe has an extremely active firm as one of its major drivers, who, far from thinking of Felixstowe as being part of the United Kingdom trade have very clear plans for containerisation which run right the way round the world in their own ships and their own lorries and that they would certainly not regard Felixstowe as simply being access to the United Kingdom market?
  (Mr Wadsworth) There is an important transhipment trade at Felixstowe amounting to something like 30 per cent of all the traffic that comes into the port.

  91. The markets on both sides of the Channel may very well, although different in kind, be rather similar.
  (Mr Wadsworth) It is true to say that the geographical hinterland of Rotterdam is much larger.

  Chairman: Yes, it is certainly land. Gentlemen, you have been very instructive. We shall await your extra notes. Thank you for coming.

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