Memorandum by the Port of London Authority
1. The Port of London Authority ("PLA")
welcomes the opportunity to make this submission to the Environment,
Transport and Regional Affairs Committee (the "Committee")
following the publication of the Government's document, Modern
Ports: A UK Policy.
2. The PLA is a self-financing public trust
created by Act of Parliament to improve and conserve the tidal
Thames. As an important part of the provision of harbour services,
the PLA regulates navigation on the tidal Thames.
3. There are currently 73 working cargo
wharves and terminals on the tidal Thames, all of which are in
private ownership, the most significant being Tilbury, owned by
Forth Ports Plc (10 million tonnes of cargo in 1999), and the
BP Oil Refinery at Coryton, (12 million tonnes pa). Total tonnage
was 52.4 million tonnes in 1999, maintaining the Port of London's
position as the UK's largest port, with a market share of 9.2
per cent of all UK seaborne trade.
4. The prime service the PLA provides is
to facilitate the safe navigation of vessels within its area of
responsibility, which extends in the east from a line drawn between
Clacton-on-Sea and Margate to Teddington in the west, a distance
of some 100 miles.
5. The PLA discharges this duty by:
providing a pilotage service;
maintaining access channels;
monitoring and directing vessel traffic
from its two navigation control centres;
making Byelaws and Directions;
enforcing regulations through its
Harbour Service patrol launches;
providing and maintaining navigation
aids (buoys and lights);
making available navigation and tidal
data to all mariners;
inspecting and registering craft;
6. The PLA investigates all reported navigational
incidents, including oil spills. Where serious breaches of the
PLA Act, its Byelaws or Directions occur, and where there is sufficient
evidence to justify a prosecution, legal proceedings are undertaken.
The PLA endeavours to be firm but fair in this regard.
7. As an independent public trust, whose
independent board members are appointed by the Secretary of State
for Transport, with no commercial relationships with port operators
other than a requirement that they or their customers pay dues
on ships, cargo and pilotage, the PLA is in a strong and impartial
position to regulate navigation, without possible conflicts of
8. Whilst it is clearly essential for safety
reasons to have a single consistent regime for navigation on the
tidal Thames, the nature of traffic varies throughout its length:
(i) between Wandsworth Bridge and Teddington
it is principally characterised by recreational rowing, boating
and dinghy sailing, but with some commercial passenger boat activity;
(ii) between the Thames Barrier and Wandsworth,
navigation is dominated by commercial passenger vessels serving
tourists and commuters, tugs towing away much of London's refuse
in container barges, aggregate vessels working in support of the
construction industry, and cruise liners, which moor in the Pool
of London close to Tower Bridge and the Tower of London, in the
summer season; and
(iii) below the Thames Barrier vessels are
predominantly seagoing and commercial in nature.
9. Each year there are approximately 30,000
commercial vessel movements through the estuary, which provides
access to both the Thames and the Medway, 33,000 vessel and small
craft movements through the Thames Barrier, and 120,000 vessel
movements through central London.
10. The PLA's vision is to work with the
port community to create a safe, sustainable and competitive environment
for the benefit of its commercial customers and the enjoyment
of leisure users of the tidal Thames.
11. The PLA's mission is, therefore, to:
facilitate the safety of navigation
on the tidal Thames;
deliver value for money services
to its commercial customers and to promote the potential of the
Port of London;
respect the environment of the tidal
Thames and to pursue principles of sustainable development;
provide an efficient, professional
and equitable service to commercial and leisure users and riparian
owners on issues affecting the River; and
safeguard the navigational access
to, and the viability of, the Port of London and its infrastructure.
12. The PLA consults widely with all its
stakeholder beneficiaries, including river users, and its staff,
in order to achieve its objectives, and actively promotes the
Port of London as the ideal port for transferring goods to and
from the London and South East markets.
13. Based on a 1998 report commissioned
by the PLA from Segal Quince Wicksteed Ltd, economic development
consultants, the Port of London generated over 37,000 jobs in
total, 31,000 of which stemmed directly from port activities,
and £2.7 billion per year in gross value added, within London,
Essex and Kent. This increases as imported, processed goods are
sold outside this area, although we are unable to compute this
figure accurately. The annual purchasing budget for the Port was
estimated to be £5.8 billion, nearly half of which was spent
on imported goods and services. Thus the Port contributes at least
£8.5 billion per annum to the UK's gross domestic product.
An investment of approximately £1 billion is anticipated
in new terminal facilities over the next 10 to 15 years.
14. The Port of London thus has a major
impact on the economy of, and the quality of life in, London and
the South East, with many of the goods imported through the port
being enjoyed by consumers in the region.
Good Growth Prospects
15. From Focus on Ports published
by the Government with Modern Ports it can be computed
that non-fuel port trade increases at approximately 1.16 per cent
for each 1 per cent growth in gross domestic product. Ninety five
per cent of UK trade moves by sea, the most environmentally sustainable
mode of transport. UK container traffic has grown historically
at between 6 and 8 per cent per annum and the UK is fast running
out of container capacity, as Modern Ports makes clear
16. The UK's major ports are thus vital
national assets and an integral part of the national distribution
system. They have to be run efficiently to attract and hold trade
in a competitive, price sensitive market, so as to generate funds
to support continued investment, and provide the service of moving
goods to market as effectively and speedily as possible.
17. Thirty per cent of the UK's population,
enjoying 35 per cent of the UK's gross domestic product, live
within two hours access of the Port of London.
18. For these reasons, the PLA considers
that the Port of London continues to have strong prospects for
long term growth, both in its short-sea roll-on/roll-off activities,
and in the deep-sea container trade.
The Proposed Development of the Shell Haven Oil
19. The largest single opportunity for the
Port of London is the proposed redevelopment by P&O Ports
Ltd, of the Shell Haven site in Thurrock as a world class, state
of the art container terminal together with an associated roll-on/roll-off
facility being planned by Jacobs Holdings PLC. Currently, these
projects are in the initial design and planning stage. Scoping
for the associated comprehensive environmental impact assessment
has also commenced.
20. P&O are planning, over a 15 to 20
year period, to construct 3 km of quayside with berthing facilities
for up to eight container vessels with an ultimate throughput
capacity of 3.5 million TEUs per annum. (Twenty Feet Equivalent
Unitsthe standard measure for containers). With the associated
distribution and industrial park planned for the site, P&O
estimates that up to 10,000 jobs could be created. Whilst many
detailed aspects of the project have not yet been addressed, the
project has the general support of the Thurrock Council and the
21. The site has good dual carriageway access
to the A13 (a major trunk road) and the M25, and is thus extremely
well situated for access to the London and South East markets.
The site is directly served by the London Tilbury and Southend
rail line and, with suitable improvements over the period of the
development, considerable volumes of goods will be able to be
moved by rail. Quayside transfer of containers to and from rail
will assist in the diversification of rail freight from the movement
of bulk materials, which we understand is subject to cyclical
demand. The close proximity of the proposed distribution and industrial
park will also reduce the need for inland transport of both exports
22. To provide access to the terminal comparable
with that at Le Havre and Felixstowe, significant dredging of
the navigational channel will be required. The associated environmental
investigations are already underway. The PLA is fully committed
to identifying and resolving any potential impacts and, should
it prove necessary, to ensuring that any required mitigation or
compensation measures are achieved.
23. There are three specific areas in relation
(i) Navigational Safety
24. As stated above, the prime service of
the PLA is to facilitate the safe navigation of vessels within
its jurisdiction, by reducing risk to a level which is "as
low as reasonably practical" (ALARP), as required by the
Port Marine Safety Code. A formal safety assessment is currently
being finalised by specialist consultants, which will form the
basis for further enhancement of the PLA's safety management system.
25. Substantial investment has been made
by the PLA in recent years to ensure that its navigation and safety
systems have high reliability and employ "state of the art"
technology. Moreover, the PLA is leading the way in investigating
the benefits of electronic navigational charts and transponder
technology to enable control centres to predict the movements
of vessels in the port environment. In addition, the PLA actively
participates in the development of national and international
standards and procedures affecting port operations, as illustrated
by its major contribution to the development of the Port Marine
Safety Code and accompanying Good Practice Guide.
26. Lord Justice Clarke in his report on
Safety on the River Thames stated:
"I have reached the clear conclusion that
the regulation of safety on the Thames has improved almost beyond
recognition since 1989. There have been numerous individual advances,
which I have referred to above, many of which were the result
of the recommendations made by the MAIB and the Hayes Reports
and by the inquest jury. The PLA has itself changed to such an
extent that it is now a trust port and entirely independent of
any commercial interest. It has improved its management structures
in a number of ways and I have been very impressed by its professional
approach and especially, in the context of navigational safety,
by the professional approach of its Harbour Masters, led by the
Chief Harbour Master."
Search and Rescue (SAR)
27. Under a memorandum of understanding
with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), the PLA has voluntarily
accepted responsibility for the co-ordination of SAR activities
upstream of Canvey Island.
28. However, plans are currently at an advanced
stage between the DETR, MCA, the Royal National Lifeboat Institute
(RNLI) and the PLA for the full time deployment of three dedicated
rescue craft in the area of the river used by the passenger vessels,
and for full time MCA (Coastguard) watch officers, to be integrated
with the PLA's navigation control function at its Thames Barrier
Navigation Control Centre, thereby substantially increasing SAR
resources and readiness.
The tragedy of the "Marchioness"
29. As the Committee will be aware, Lord
Justice Clarke is about to produce his report following his investigation
under the Merchant Shipping Act into the loss in 1989 of the "Marchioness"
and 51 lives. The PLA is not, therefore, in a position to comment
on his possible findings, other than to reassure the Committee
and the public that if Lord Justice Clarke makes any recommendations
to enhance the margin of safety that fall within the PLA's area
of responsibility, they will be actioned as speedily as possible,
as were the recommendations from the Thames Safety Inquiry and
the previous investigations into the accident.
30. The PLA are obviously willing to provide
an update, if the Committee requires this, once Lord Justice Clarke's
report is published.
(ii) Safety of Wharf and Terminal Operators
31. Safety at the wharves and terminals
on the Thames is the responsibility of the individual owners or
operators. The Health and Safety Executive regulate their activities.
32. PLA recently distributed copies of the
Port Safety Organisation's (PSO) Non-permanent workers "Passport"
scheme documentation to all terminal operators in the Port.
(iii) Health and Safety of PLA Employees
33. The Chief Executive of the PLA is ultimately
responsible to the Board for the health and safety of PLA employees.
The employment of a full-time Health and Safety Adviser, backed
by robust staff consultative procedures, ensures that the PLA
has a good record in this area.
34. The PLA supports principles of sustainable
development, and is sensitive to its responsibilities in relation
to the environment of the tidal Thames. The PLA is a founding
and active member of the Thames Estuary Partnership, which acts
as a forum for various organisations including English Nature
and the Environment Agency to promote sustainable development
between Tower Bridge and the sea.
35. The PLA is committed to ensuring that
any development with which it is associated is environmentally
responsible. However, as is discussed further below, the Authority
is concerned that European environmental directives such as the
Birds and Habitats Directives appear to be applied more rigorously
in the UK than in many other parts of North West Europe. Whilst
this has not to date caused any direct conflict in relation to
the Thames, the forthcoming re-development of the Shell Haven
site has forced such issues sharply into focus.
36. "Modern Ports" stresses the
importance of meeting environmental, social and economic objectives
all at the same time. In practice, however, the designation of
European sites under these Directives is leading to a significant,
disproportionate increase in the cost of meeting environmental
requirements. Such costs include increased expenditure on the
initial studies, consultancy fees, impact assessments etc; potentially
very substantial costs associated with mitigation or compensation
measures; and an ongoing financial commitment in terms of monitoring,
37. The PLA welcomed the publication of
"Modernising Trust Ports, A Guide to Good Governance",
and was pleased to have the DETR confirm that only minor reporting
changes were needed in order for the PLA to meet the new national
Inter port co-operation
38. The PLA are active members of the United
Kingdom Major Ports Group (UKMPG), and the Ports Safety Organisation
(PSO), which provide by means of seminars, meetings, etc opportunities
for members to raise standards to achieve best practice by learning
from one another. The PLA supports the work of British Ports Industry
Training ("BPIT") in defining standards of competence
for port employees and promoting training throughout the industry.
39. Together with Medway Ports, the PLA
operates a joint pilot boarding and landing service in the form
of a 50:50 joint venture company, thereby avoiding duplication
of the associated assets in the Thames and Medway areas.
Safeguarding of strategically important wharves
40. As general cargo operations have largely,
but not entirely, withdrawn from the Upper Thames, the riverside
area has been extensively redeveloped for residential and commercial
purposes. The pressures for redevelopment have spread to the Thames
Gateway where some councils, eager for regeneration projects,
have amended their planning policies to encourage the redevelopment
of wharves for non-port use. This puts pressure on neighbouring
and pre-existing wharves and terminals which often need to operate
according to the state of the tide outside normal working hours.
Such activity is often opposed by residents. This is turn can
result in port operations being prejudiced even though such a
possibility was not a consideration during the planning approval
process for the neighbouring development.
41. Substantial volumes of sea dredged aggregates
(8.3 million tonnes per annum) are delivered by ship as far upstream
as Fulham, and 760,000 tonnes of domestic waste moves from riverside
waste transfer stations downriver to landfill in Essex each year.
These volumes are equivalent to 240,000 lorry movements on London's
roads, and there is scope for considerably more of this type of
traffic including transferring waste for recycling on the river
provided cargo handling facilities, in particular land, remain
available for use. The PLA is working with the Mayor of London
to protect and increase use of the Thames for such purposes, thereby
helping to relieve London's traffic congestion.
42. To this end, the Government has safeguarded
30 wharves upstream of the Thames Barrier in the GLA area. The
Mayor, following advice from the PLA, can now direct refusal of
schemes, which do not incorporate the strategic need for cargo
handling on the River Thames in relation to these sites. A further
41 potential sites, together with essential boat maintenance facilities,
are under detailed consideration by the Mayor of London and the
43. The PLA would appreciate the Committee's
support for this policy, which the PLA considers to be the best
practical way of recognising the unique circumstances of the Port
of London and ensuring that the Thames remains a working river
for both commercial and leisure purposes, rather than becoming
sterilised with wall to wall residential and non-port related
commercial developments along both banks.
44. The PLA welcomes the publication of
"Modern Ports" which confirms and codifies current Government
Policy on the ports industry. It is both constructive and helpful
to have these policies formally defined and set out in a single
45. The PLA particularly welcomes the proposals
in paragraph 3.2.8 to rationalise and, where possible, simplify
the consent and inquiry procedures for port developments, and
it awaits the detailed proposals with great interest.
46. The PLA works closely with Ports Division
of the DETR, and is pleased to see that the Government is committed
to resisting unfair competition from continental Europe (paragraph
47. Many European countries do not levy
light dues on commercial vessels, and the UK Government's charges
in this regard are resented by a number of the world's major shipping
lines. The PLA consider that the abolition of such charges, thereby
"levelling the playing field", would be appreciated
by the shipping industry (paragraph 3.2.14 refers).
48. With the major exception of the proposed
European Directive on Access to Port Services (see below), the
PLA has no further comments on "Modern Ports" that it
wishes to bring to the attention of the Committee.
Proposed European Directive on Access to Port
49. Whilst it is difficult to discuss the
proposed European Directive on access to port services without
the benefits of a published text, a number of meetings between
the UKMPG, the European Commissioner, Ms de Palacio, and her senior
staff have taken place. It has become clear that the proposal
is intended to apply to any European Union seaport with annual
traffic in excess of five million tonnes and to cover commercial
services including pilotage, towage, mooring, cargo handling,
storage and consolidation, and passenger services.
50. Whilst pilotage directly concerns the
PLA, the PLA believes that there will be an opt-out provision
relating to maritime safety. The main issue is the proposed requirement
to open up cargo handling, stevedoring and storage to other providers.
The PLA understands that at least two operators would be required
in any port, which comes within the scope of the Directive.
51. The major UK Ports have mainly been
privatised, including the Tilbury complex on the Thames. The UK
thus relies on direct private sector investment to provide most
port services. It follows that port operators making investments
in new terminals and other facilities should be free to make a
return on their investment that rewards them for taking the initial
start up risk.
52. It is counter to the United Kingdom's
interests that private investors, particularly those that have
taken the risk in investing in start up facilities, should effectively
have part of their assets seized under the proposed directive
to permit a second operator, who has little initial risk, to operate
within the port. Such a proposal, if implemented, would be tantamount
to interference in the UK economy, and possibly be retroactive
in terms of application.
53. Most coastal ports in north west Europe
are state or municipally owned and financed, and are run in effect
as "landlord" ports. The proposed directive is relevant
to such a system where state-owned, financed, and possibly subsidised,
monopolies own port facilities leasing them to third party operators,
but is irrelevant and highly damaging to the privately financed
54. The disincentive for international port
operators to invest in new facilities in the United Kingdom will
be considerable, if the proposed directive is implemented without
modification. This could have serious consequences for the whole
of the UK population if, for example, container-handling capacity
fails to meet demand in the decade ahead. The proposal should
be carefully studied by HM Government and modified by negotiation
with the Commission and other EU member states so as not to inhibit
further investment in the UK ports and to protect current investment.
The PLA respectfully requests that the Committee draw the attention
of fellow parliamentarians to this crucial issue.
European Environmental Legislation
55. The Government should ensure that the
designation and management of marine sites under European environmental
legislation are undertaken using consistently applied criteria
across the whole of North West Europe to ensure that competition
between North West European ports such as Hamburg, Bremen, Rotterdam
and Le Havre, and the British ports is on a "level playing
field". Otherwise, there is a real risk that North West Continental
European ports will develop at the expense of major ports on the
east and south coasts of Britain with a consequential increase
in distribution costs for feeder services to and from, say Rotterdam,
rather than direct services into London, Felixstowe and Southampton.
A worrying example is provided by the different way in which economic
and social criteria are clearly being considered in sites proposed
for designation under the Habitats Directive by other European
Proposed changes to the law on Corporate Manslaughter
56. In May 2000, the Home Office published
a proposal to update the law on involuntary manslaughter and to
introduce a new offence of corporate killing which, in general,
the PLA supports.
57. As members of the Committee are no doubt
aware, the new offence of corporate killing is proposed where
an organisation's conduct is causing death falls far below what
could reasonably be expected [and] the death is deemed to have
been caused by management failure, in that the activities of the
organisation are managed or organised so as to fail to ensure
the health and safety of persons employed in or affected by its
58. Ports and harbours, by their nature,
are hazardous places. Ships converge and the water invariably
shallows. There is also a general public right of navigation for
commercial shipping and private craft. A fundamental legal principle
under which Harbour Authorities, such as the PLA, operate is that
the master of a vessel is responsible for its conduct and safe
navigation, not the Harbour Authority, which is solely responsible
for the provision of a safe regime for navigation.
59. In the PLA's view, except where the
authority concerned is guilty of negligence, there should be an
exemption from the new law for the emergency services, including
Harbour Authorities, who are primarily dependant on the acts of
others, and who manage levels of risk substantially higher than
those attributable to virtually all commercial organisations.
60. Furthermore, a requirement to "ensure
the health and safety of those affected" is not realistic.
Whilst, safety systems can reduce the risk of accident to a level
which is "as low as reasonably practical (ALARP)", they
cannot guarantee absolute safety. Risk is inherent in all human
61. The Home Office proposal did not make
it clear that the two tests of "management failure",
and "conduct falling far below" had both to apply before
a conviction could be obtained, but the PLA has subsequently received
an assurance from the Home Office that this is the intention.
62. The PLA would ask the Committee to ensure
that the particular position of authorities with statutory responsibility
for managing emergencies, such as the Local Emergency Services
and Harbour Authorities is fully taken into account, if such legislation
is put before Parliament. Officers of such organisations should
not have to operate in fear of legal restrictions in managing
emergencies where lives may be being lost due to the acts of others.
63. A copy of the PLA's submission to the
Home Office is attached should members of the Committee wish to
Alcohol and Drug Abuse
64. In the recommendations in his Thames
Safety Inquiry, Lord Justice Clarke stated that:
"Subject only to necessary or appropriate
differences because of the maritime dimension, there should be
no material difference between the alcohol legislation which regulates
those driving or in charge of a motor vehicle on a public road
and the alcohol [and drug] legislation which regulates those navigating
or in charge of a vessel."
65. The PLA strongly supports Lord Justice
Clarke's recommendation, and has made various representations
to the DETR to this effect, the latest being in February 2000
as part of public consultations on this issue.
66. The PLA would welcome the support of
the Committee for the introduction of such legislation as soon
as possible. Again, a copy of the PLA's submission is attached
should members of the Committee wish to see it.
S C Cuthbert
18 January 2001
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