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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 280 - 297)



Mr Bennett

  280. What are the consequences? Are lots more near-misses and dangerous situations occurring?
  (Captain Glass) I have seen no evidence to indicate that.


  281. You are uneasy about it.
  (Captain Glass) Yes, I am uneasy. Being responsible for the inspection regime or local lights we visit every port, we inspect the 9,500 local aids to navigation and we are continuously expressing our concern.

Mr Bennett

  282. Do you think that the one incident which perhaps has been argued was a one-off at Milford Haven might be repeated somewhere else, if not with quite such disastrous environmental consequences?
  (Captain Glass) That was a particularly disastrous incident, but I hope that things have improved and I know that the intent of the port marine safety code and the guide to good practice and the standardising of pilot training will go a long way to improving the likelihood of it never occurring again. I cannot say that it will not happen.

  283. What about the recruitment of people who are suitably qualified for the whole of this area? Is that a problem?
  (Captain Glass) Recruitment of pilots?

  284. Recruitment of pilots, the whole of the inspection regime in ports.
  (Captain Glass) It is certainly under pressure, it must be with the reduction in British ships and British mariners from whence all these people are drawn or have traditionally been drawn.

  285. What needs to be done about it?
  (Captain Glass) Our experience is that there is no recruitment problem. There are plenty of young people out there who would like to go to sea. We run a cadet training scheme under the corporate charity and we have 60 cadets in training at all times. For every 15 places each year we get literally hundreds of applicants. Our problem is finding enough British ships with enough bunks to put them in. That is where we are under pressure. We have great hope that the tonnage tax will put more British ships available to us to put our youngsters in to train.

  286. Do you think that then will increase the number of people who are in training?
  (Captain Glass) Yes; we certainly hope so.

Mr Donaldson

  287. What role is played by the Corporation of Trinity House in terms of advising the ports industry on safety and training matters?
  (Captain Glass) Our only statutory duty is inspection of their aids to navigation, their lighthouses, buoys, beacons and all that manner of things. During our annual inspection of local aids we do undertake consultation with the harbour master and his representatives and assist in risk assessment of the port entry and departure, where they should deploy their aids to navigation to the best effect, because we are the experts and we are responsible for the general navigation around the whole of the coast. That is the only interface at which we consult with the ports and advise them on how best to do it.

  288. Do you have a view as to whether more could be done to seek the advice of the Corporation and indeed other expert bodies?
  (Captain Glass) Certainly we should like to do more of the same and we probably will. We have already been approached by a number of ports who are carrying out their safety assessment under the port and marine safety code for the first time. We have given advice on how to carry out the safety assessment and how to effect the changes which will improve the navigable waters which they are dealing with. That is about the extent of our jurisdiction and really the extent of our expertise as we are not involved in port pilotage any more.


  289. May I ask what your view is of the European Commission's Directive on port services?
  (Captain Glass) We have yet to form a view. We received the draft document and are considering it but our only involvement would be safety and navigation and deployment of aids to navigation. We have yet to come up with an opinion on that.

  290. Presumably you feel it would have an impact on the pilotage services.
  (Captain Glass) Yes, it will on port pilotage.

  291. You will then at some point form an opinion which you will make known to the Government?
  (Captain Glass) Yes, we will.

  292. You would not like to hurry up and do that so the Committee could know as well would you?
  (Captain Glass) Point taken.

Mr Donohoe

  293. Are you going to?
  (Captain Glass) Yes.


  294. Can you say whether you are satisfied with the length of time it has taken the Government to produce Modern Ports: A UK Policy?
  (Captain Glass) It took a long time, we are very conscious of that and we are sympathetic to that inasmuch as it is a multi-faceted piece of work and it meant an awful lot of work had to be done. The timing really was probably beneficial in that it is now in step with DETR's work on the port and marine safety code and the guide to good practice. When the code comes into force at the end of this year it will be a year after the policy arrived and will form more of a coordinated approach and a guidance for users both ashore and afloat.

  295. You are used in effect to having the power to influence the way that particular things happen. Do you think the code has sufficient teeth?
  (Captain Glass) Probably from the corporate point of view no. We should like to have seen powers and probably hope that power will be possible in the future.

  296. Have you made that position clear to the Department?
  (Captain Glass) Yes, we have.

  297. Are there particular aspects which you have made clear to the Department?
  (Captain Glass) The whole philosophy of putting your house in order and the public accountability being probably the perceived stick, is not quite appreciated by everybody. It needs more than that: it needs some teeth. Having had the privilege of assisting in the writing of the code and the guide, I really do look forward to teeth being applied, not now but in the future.

  Chairman: Thank you very much indeed, you have both been very helpful.

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