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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 340 - 359)



Mr Bennett

  340. Do you think there really can be competition? You have just talked about this new deep water berth at Rotterdam. How much is that going to cost?
  (Captain Bligh) I do not have those figures.

  341. How many other people can afford to put in a deep water berth like that, say in the UK or in other European countries?
  (Mr Everard) It is already happening. There are going to be new developments at Shellhaven for a deep water port for containers and there is a possible one going to happen at Southampton.

  342. So there will be at least three alternative sites which can take that size ship.
  (Mr Everard) There will be enormous developments, absolutely enormous.
  (Mr Good) If, say, in the port of Felixstowe it were open to other operators, or in Southampton, it would make things very difficult for the users of the ports because at the moment Felixstowe perhaps cannot always cope at peak times. If it were being split with another operator, it could cause quite a lot of further congestion or even confusion. Certainly in the UK the efficiency of ports has gone up immeasurably and there is competition between the ports.

  343. You would see the competition as between the different ports rather than competition within a particular port and you think that the cost of developing new deep water ports is not so prohibitive that it will make competition very difficult.
  (Mr Good) No, the major port operators, as we have heard, have plans to develop their facilities further.

  344. Earlier witnesses were a bit unhappy about the safety of boats coming in and out of harbours. Do you have any evidence that the 1987 Act has not worked well?
  (Mr Everard) I think the 1987 Act has worked extremely well. The position before was totally unsatisfactory. For instance, I run a lot of small ships and we make thousands of voyages in and out of UK ports every year. Before the 1987 Act in a lot of places my ships go to, they could go without having a pilotage exemption certificate. They just had to qualify because of their trading pattern. What the whole 1987 Act has done is tighten up all the procedures in that now the ports are responsible for making sure that ships have the right people on board, who have the local knowledge and also of course that people on board these ships know the characteristics of their ships, they know how they handle. What happened with the pilotage exemption certificates and the way they work is that the person has to demonstrate ... I accept the point you made about Milford Haven that the trippage requirement was too low, but that has been amended and it does not apply, as far as I know, in any other ports. The port authority is now responsible for deciding. Remember that each port is different. You cannot have the same rules in each port. If you are going up a narrow river or a narrow channel, it is very different for a ship just calling into a wharf which is well protected and does not have the same sort of problems. You would expect the requirements for going in and out of ports to be different in different ports because of the very nature of the navigation to go to and from. My view is that the 1987 Act has provided a very safe environment. Of course there are a lot more pilotage exemption certificates but what was not said in previous answers was that pilotage exemption certificates did not exist to the same degree as they do today.

  345. You do not think that they are now issued because a port is interested in its commercial opportunities and wants to attract shipping and therefore is prepared to issue this certificate perhaps a little unwisely.
  (Mr Everard) This is probably a bit of a problem. I have a bit of a problem with one port myself which is actually going the other way and that is that it is contravening the 1987 Act. The point about the 1987 Act was that where a person could demonstrate he had local knowledge and he had the added advantage which a pilot does not have—because remember ships are not like aeroplanes, they are all different, all have different handling characteristics—where that person has both those two things together, he is a safer person than the pilot who is an adviser. It is a very important service and I am not having anything said against the pilots, they do a very good job, but where you have a pilotage exemption certificate holder who can demonstrate both local knowledge and the handling of his ship, it increases safety. I should just like to make the point that if you actually look at the Sea Empress, that had a pilot on board. I am not trying to say that was necessarily the reason for the accident, but the only ship I have lost in my own company in the last 30 years was one with a pilot on board who we consider caused the incident in the first place. Just by putting a pilot on board does not make a ship safer, in fact in many cases a ship is much safer where you have the person on board who has both the previous points I have just made. The other point which was made was that it is terrible to give pilotage exemption certificates to people doing long voyages because they are too tired. A person doing very long voyages could never meet the tripping requirements or the local knowledge requirements so he is not going to get a pilotage exemption certificate in the first place. The only people getting pilotage exemption certificates are regular traders on short voyages.


  346. So you would not accept that there might be a problem with people who do not speak very good English.
  (Mr Everard) That of course is up to the competent harbour authority. The great thing is that now you have somebody who is actually responsible locally to decide whether that person is actually suitable to receive the exemption certificate.

Mr Bennett

  347. There are commercial pressures, are there not?
  (Mr Everard) There are always commercial pressures in any form of life. May I say that in the shipping industry there is nothing more ... An oil accident takes so much pressure and time. It is in the media immediately. You just have to spill some oil. I run 17 tankers. I spill some oil and the pressure on myself is enormous. I only look after one thing day to day in my own company, being Chairman, and that is safety. That is the only thing I have day to day responsibility for.

  348. Are you sure that everybody else takes the same view as yourself?
  (Mr Everard) You cannot always speak for everybody. What I am saying, and I know Stephen will back this up, is that running safe ships is the number one priority. I know you have had other enquiries here about other spheres. I can assure you that shipping is a very safety conscious industry. Remember we are only talking about regular traders and the port authority can decide whether people meet the right requirements for coming in or out. They are the ones. Of course there are commercial pressures, I accept that, but in fact it is rather like the port safety code which we fully support: if somebody does not follow that as far as an onshore incident is concerned, that is very good evidence for prosecution under the Health and Safety that people were not using the safety code.

  349. If you are so concerned about safety, which is great, is there a shortage of people in the industry now who have the skills to do the work, both on ships and as they are coming into port?
  (Mr Everard) Everybody accepts there is. What the solution is, is very difficult. We certainly want to work with the ports in helping to ease that burden which is obviously on them. The more seafarers we can have coming ashore who have actual experience of what it is like to navigate and work, the better.

  350. Are there enough seafarers to start with so that some of them can come ashore?
  (Mr Everard) No, there are not.

  351. What are you doing about training?
  (Mr Everard) What we are doing about training is that Captain Bligh trains a lot of people, we train a lot of people; we cannot solve the ports problem. The ports might have to introduce their own training schemes which they are beginning to do to meet their own problems. They might actually even have to sponsor cadets or have their own training schemes in different ways to meet their problems. We cannot as such solve the problems for them, though I would love to think that we could have enough seafarers going through the system who could. With the shipping inquiry you had here before, there is no doubt that there should in theory be increased training with tonnage tax, but it is going to need a great deal more than that to get the right number of people coming through.

Mr Stevenson

  352. May I ask a question for clarification? Captain Bligh, earlier on I understood you to say that your company was investing in the Rotterdam development.
  (Captain Bligh) Yes, with other partners, port authorities, Rotterdam and so on.

  353. Does that investment by your company as a user mean that you will be given some priority or exclusive rights to the use of that terminal when it is available?
  (Captain Bligh) There will be an element of that involved in it.

  354. How much of an element?
  (Captain Bligh) My own company operates in a consortium partnership of a number of large shipping companies. The berths will be available to us and our partners.

  355. In the consortium.
  (Captain Bligh) Yes.

  356. Presumably the consortium are chipping in, are they?
  (Captain Bligh) No.

  357. Nevertheless—and I am sure you understand why I am asking the question—are you able to give us some idea of what proportion of the use of that terminal will be catered for by yourselves and your partners in the consortium?
  (Captain Bligh) There will be spare capacity on the berths we are building to allow us to offer those to other port callers.

  358. Will you as one of the major investors not only have some priority personal use for your company but also some decisionmaking powers on who can use it?
  (Captain Bligh) That it is based within the port of Rotterdam?

  359. That is the one I am referring to.
  (Captain Bligh) Yes, there will be rules laid down by the port of Rotterdam. The berth and the shore site facilities are our responsibility. The pilotage within the harbour area is still the responsibility of the Rotterdam harbour authority. We are not building a new port, we are building berths within the harbour.

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