Supplementary memorandum by Dr Merv Rawlinson
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 yearsas 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