Examination of Witnesses (Questions 360
WEDNESDAY 14 MARCH 2001
JOHN A GOOD
360. I understand that but I should be extremely
interested, unless of course it is commercially confidential,
as to how much of that development is going to be used almost
uniquely by your own company and your consortium partners and
how much would be available for other users.
(Captain Bligh) I would not be able to give you a
direct split because the berths are being built for 2015 total
usage and what the throughput is going to be then. So in the early
days of the berth there will be more capacity for trade growth
that we will not have taken up and as our trade grows then the
availability to other users will reduce.
361. I understand that you are looking to the
long term. Is the same sort of deal being put together for the
developments you referred to at Southampton and elsewhere?
(Mr Good) The situation in Rotterdam and other continental
ports is rather different from the ports here where the ports
tend to be owned by one company. In Rotterdam land is leased out
to different users who build their own terminals and quays. It
is rather different. In the port of Rotterdam and Europort the
different quays belong to different operatives. It is rather different.
In Southampton this new development is by the owners of Southampton,
AVP, the one they want to develop further, mainly because they
362. I presume that anybody, provided they pay
the charges, will be able to use it?
(Mr Good) Yes. At Southampton and Felixstowe it is
more of a common user facility.
363. Whereas in Rotterdam, for the reasons you
explained and also Captain Bligh's explanation, it is unique usage
by particular people who are prepared to cough up the money to
invest in that.
(Mr Good) Yes.
364. There is a mild inconsistency in some of
the things you have told us, Mr Everard. One is that on the one
hand you think it is very good when you pay no dues and therefore
if it is subsidised by the taxpayers or the ratepayers of another
country you may not necessarily agree with that in theory but
you certainly do not object to taking the benefits from it in
practice. On the other hand there is sufficient competition between
all the ports in the United Kingdom to represent good value for
money for those of you using those ports.
(Mr Everard) On the whole that is correct. We are
always worried. There is some degree sometimes of monopoly power
in the UK ports. For instance, where you have a refinery in a
port the refinery cannot move, it is worth several times more
than the whole port. So there are captive customers. That is why
we have this light touch approach, as we call it, of having certain
degrees where we are able to appeal to the DETR or elsewhere to
deal with these matters. All we are saying is that we are purely
looking from the point of view of users.
365. Yes, we have taken that on board.
(Mr Everard) It is not up to us. We have a view but
we cannot tell people not to subsidise.
366. Suppose all users in effect right the way
throughout the whole of Europe were using exactly the same basis,
would you go along with that?
(Mr Everard) No. Everything is very different. It
is difficult to compare Rotterdam, a huge port, with all these
little ports round the UK which actually do compete with each
other in a way that Rotterdam does not. As has been pointed out,
Rotterdam has terminals within the port. It is very difficult
to compare that with ports round the UK, which, apart from where
they have a monopoly position, where there is a refinery or a
ferry terminal which has already been constructed, are very different.
That is actually what worried us slightly about the European ports
policy. What may be laid down for Rotterdam might not be right
for Bristol, London or Liverpool or wherever else.
367. Have you made that point to the Department?
(Mr Everard) Yes, we have. We made it in advance of
the document coming out.
(Mr Astbury) Yes; in general terms.
368. Nevertheless is there not an issue of principle
here? In the UK ports by and large any operator can use one so
long as they pay the charges, but in Rotterdam that is not the
case. By and large the ones which can use the port facilities
are the ones which have use of those port facilities laid down
because they have invested in them.
(Captain Bligh) There are common user berths just
the same in Rotterdam as there are in the UK ports where you will
pay the owner of that facility and you will pay a stevedoring
company. Just taking the issue of shipping companies investing,
obviously for the throughputs we are looking at it is in our interest
to take control of that part of our business.
Chairman: Thank you very much, gentlemen, you
have been very helpful.