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

Supplementary memorandum by Dr Merv Rawlinson (IW 20A)


  In support of my concerns over the current condition on the River Weaver, I would like to reiterate my findings. Firstly, I wish to provide some context for my research.

  My particular research interest lies in exploring the potential for coastal, shortsea and inland shipping as an alternative to road haulage. As well as having attained practical experience as Chief Officer in small coastal tankers, I have carried out extensive research in the field over the last ten years. My concern over the current state of the Weaver is derived from the under utilisation of one of the UK's few inland waterways capable of supporting coastal and shortsea shipping.

  My research programme has taken me to the River Weaver location twice in the last four years—as recently as Summer 2000. I have interviewed two shipowners, hitherto traders on the Weaver, and also the representative of the major shipper, the chemical complex base based in the Mid Cheshire region. All three sources have expressed concern over the deterioration in depth of the river channel. The concern of British Waterway's customers is manifest in non-existent level of traffic on the waterway, currently. The two main traffic streams from the Mid Cheshire chemical complex are being moved by road haulage ex-works to loading locations outside of British Waterways ambit. My investigations are that between 3,000 and 4,000 tonnes of bulk soda ash are loaded per week at the Port of Garston from lorries. This is bound mostly for the distribution hub of Terneuzen in the Netherlands. A further 700 tonnes of bulk chemicals are moved by road to the Port of Liverpool for loading into the tanker vessel, St Kieran. In both instances it is evident that the deterioration in water levels in the River Weaver prevents vessels loading to their full capacity. This leads to the extra costs of road transhipment and denies the full advantages of shippings' economies of scale.

  The fate of the St Kieran is of particular concern as the enforced use of road tanker loadings 30 kilometres downstream jeopardises the viability of the shipping operation. The 770 dwt tanker vessel was purpose built in 1978 for the sea-river trade linking the Mid-Cheshire chemicals industry with its paper pulp industry customers in the Troon area. The inability of this vessel to load directly to anything like full capacity makes any competitive advantage over road trunk haulage, marginal.

  I hope my further comments have added to the discussions on the state of the River Weaver.

Dr Merv Rowlinson
London Guildhall University

December 2000

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