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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 220 - 239)



  220. There is a discriminatory approach, for whatever reason, it may be legislative or otherwise, between the area you are concerned about, that is pilotage, and the general dock workers and crew and so on. Would you agree with that?
  (Mr McKinney) Yes, I think that is it.
  (Mr Mills) Indeed in your own document you have the number of accidents proven in the dock industry and in the port industry itself.


  221. Where does the Health and Safety at Work Act come in?
  (Mr Mills) It is one side of the bulwark rail of a ship to another. Where the actual demarcation lies is a very grey area and where it begins and finishes.

  222. You are really saying to us that existing Health and Safety legislation is not sufficient to cover the groups other than the pilotage groups. Are you suggesting that the pilots would be given specific attention because of the fact that they are regarded as being skilled?
  (Mr Mills) Our understanding is that Health and Safety comes up to the quay wall. Once you are actually sea-borne or river-borne, you are water-borne, ...

  223. So I step off the quay.
  (Mr Mills) ... you step on board a ship, then you come more under the MCA than Health and Safety.

Mr Stevenson

  224. Presumably the port safety committees are established under the Health and Safety regime.
  (Mr McKinney) Yes.
  (Mr Mills) Yes.

  225. You have commented in your evidence that the port safety committees do exist but the users of the ports are never represented on them. Who is represented on the port safety committees?
  (Mr Mills) The membership ranges from dock masters, maybe a VTS operator, maybe a guy from the sailing club. Sometimes a pilot has been included. The makeup of such committees is really down to who can make—

  226. You are giving me the impression that the makeup of these extremely important committees may be described as ad hoc. Would you disagree with that?
  (Mr Mills) Some of those committees have been ad hoc.


  227. Before we get away from the port and marine safety code may I bring you back to the question of accountability? In the Modern Ports document it does say that the code will mean harbour authorities must be openly accountable for their legal duties and powers and the code will hold them accountable for the outcome of their policies etcetera. Are you saying that does not really mean anything in terms of legal responsibility?
  (Mr Mills) We have been seeking a meeting with Keith Hill for quite some time now to discuss the whys and wherefores.

  228. Are you saying that there are no sanctions?
  (Mr Mills) From our understanding of the port and marine safety code there do not appear to be any sanctions. What we were looking for was to see what kind of verification there would be or whether legislation would be given to this port and marine safety code. Apparently, unfortunately, due to time and everything else our understanding is that it has been put back.

  229. It says the code is a national standard, guide to best practice. You are saying that it is in effect just a wish list without any way of making sure that it is brought into operation. Is that what you are telling us?
  (Mr Mills) Yes, that is the general impression we are getting.

Mr Bennett

  230. The British Port Industry Training Board: an employers' poodle?
  (Mr Graveson) With respect to the British Port Industry Training Board, I have recently been appointed to that Board, along with a union representative of the Transport and General Workers' Union. It is predominantly employers. It is not based on a tripartite system of employers, employee representatives and the educators. It is very much employer led. There is nothing wrong with it being employer led, but here it is a question of it being dominated.

  231. Does it not do a good job?
  (Mr Graveson) The question we must ask is how good a job is it doing when we look at the accidents in our ports? On 12 March I attended a conference opened by Mr Keith Hill, Shipping Minister, and attended by Bill Callaghan of the Health and Safety Commission. It was identified that our ports are the worst shore-based industry from the point of view of accidents, more dangerous than deep coal mining. Thirty per cent of the accidents were taking place on board ship and some 70 per cent in the docks themselves between the docks and the dock gate. We are obviously profoundly concerned over that.

  232. Do you see that because people are not trained or is it poor equipment and poor management which are the issue?
  (Mr Graveson) Like all these things it is a combination. Training is vital, safety training is vital, there is no doubt about that. Clearly it is how our ports are designed as well. Many of them have been, shall we say, pressured to expand, some of them in very old infrastructure and that in itself might have some contribution to this. There is also the question of effective policing. The Health and Safety Commission are getting additional resources, I was informed by Mr Bill Callaghan. However, with respect to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency we were told there were 120 surveyors. In actual fact that are not 120 surveyors responsible for inspecting in ports because they have to undertake other duties as well. We have reason to believe that it is something in the region of 15 man years; only 15.

  233. There are only 15 staff available to inspect in ports.
  (Mr Graveson) No, there are 120 but when it is aggregated down, because they have other duties, it comes to approximately 15.


  234. Have you noticed a change in relation to that?
  (Mr Graveson) No, there is no change at all.

  235. The change in the surveyors' duties has only really taken effect in the last year and a half.
  (Mr Graveson) That is correct. However, the swingeing cuts which took place four or five years ago in the Maritime and Coastguard Agency have not been rectified. Given the expansion of the UK fleet, many of them have to be diverted to other duties.

Mr Bennett

  236. When they come to inspect ports and they make recommendations for changes, are those changes enforced quickly?
  (Mr Graveson) I must just point out that the MCA do not inspect ports. They look on board ships and at the working practice on board ships. The Health and Safety Executive look to the dryside in the ports themselves. Yes, recommendations can take place and yes, they are effected quickly when that does happen. The problem is that there are not enough people to do the inspections.

  237. So not enough is happening. What about the qualified people generally within the industry? Are enough people obtaining qualifications? Is the Training Board doing well on the rest of it if it is not doing well on the safety side?
  (Mr Graveson) You have to look at this on two levels and in relation to the skills involved. From the point of view of ex mariners there is no doubt, and from the Guildhall study which stated we need some 1,450 new entrants to sustain our maritime base, that clearly we are only achieving about one third of that and clearly difficulties are starting to come about now in that respect.

  238. Could you give us some particular examples of the difficulties?
  (Mr Graveson) Yes. The difficulties are when you are wanting people with past seagoing experience to work in ports as superintendents and work on board ships as well and in management, largely because of the competition, certainly from the City of London, there is some evidence to suggest that it is difficult to attract people.


  239. The week before last the Committee saw a container port in Barcelona which is about to double its existing size, although interestingly enough it is facing the wrong way down the Mediterranean. I should like to know whether you are satisfied at the length of time it has taken to get a proper modern ports policy? Do you believe the Government have been tardy or are you satisfied with the time it has taken?
  (Mr Graveson) It is a question of priorities, is it not? At least we have something on the table. It is a decade since we had anything. Now at least we have a document there to work to. What needs to happen of course is for it to be implemented with the appropriate resources.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 26 July 2001