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

Memorandum by The Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers (P 20)



  Considering that in excess of 90 per cent of the UK foreign trade is carried by sea, the influence of UK ports cannot be under-estimated.

  Over the years UK ports have had to cope with a dramatic change in their methods of cargo handling and the growth of containerisation and roll on/roll off.

  By their steady improvement in productivity and turn round of vessels their priority has been to increase the productivity of ship owners by enabling them to make more voyages resulting in increasing profitability. This has helped to lead, together with intense competition, to a downward trend and stabilisation in freight rates for both import and export traders.

  The competition between UK ports therefore ensures the quality of service to ship owners.


  The size of vessels has increased dramatically over the last few years with 6,000 TEU ships becoming commonplace, 8,000 TEU vessels already in service and larger vessels under serious consideration. This leads to a requirement for dredging to increase draft, increased quay facilities to provide adequate storage for increased volumes, the development of efficient off-take and receiving facilities to reduce the impact of quay rent and demurrage and the provision of ship to shore machinery to handle ships of ever increasing width.

  Without such facilities there is a danger that continental ports would become more attractive and UK ports would be reduced to a feeder basis, with the obvious down turn in handling revenue.

  There is a growing awareness of the need for stringent safeguards for the health and safety of all personnel involved in the handling of cargo and vessels. Ports are dangerous places and only by maintenance of the strictest safety regulations and training can the excellent safety record be maintained.


  There is presently a directive by the European Council with regard to competition between and within ports. In our opinion there is already very healthy competition existing between UK ports leading to the best terms being offered to users of the facilities. This is borne out by the moving of lines to ports offering more economic and strategic possibilities.

  We can envisage extreme difficulties, if not impossibilities, should insistence be made for more than one provider in any port in the UK where an established Port Authority exists. At the very least this would inhibit investment due to the knowledge that equipment could be hived off to a third party arbitrarily, with the resultant down grading of the facilities available to every potential port user.

  The port industry of the UK has already evidenced achieved a standard of excellence in the use of the present methods of handling and one should at least be aware of the premise that where competition does exist there is no need to repair something that is not broken.


  The ports must be allowed to develop in line with the facilities required by the port users, whether container, roll-on roll-off or specialist handling, and only then will they have the confidence to invest the required finance and expertise.

  One must not lose sight of the fact that UK ports are already suffering financial disadvantage in comparison with continental ports by imposition of light dues. More than £60 million per annum is collected through light dues with some glaring omissions from those paying such fees. The unfair proportion of the dues is paid by the large ocean going container/bulk vessels whereas short sea ferries escape extremely lightly when the comparison includes the number of port calls made.

  The Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers maintains its opposition to such a charge.

January 2001

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