Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80
WEDNESDAY 14 FEBRUARY 2001
80. When you talk about several weeks, what
do you have in your own mind?
(Mr Reeves) I hope I did not say several weeks.
81. The next few weeks.
(Mr Reeves) I think what I meant to say was that we
are developing some ideas and we shall have a discussion with
the industry on some of these issues and we are going to issue
a discussion paper particularly focusing on the container market.
82. How successful do you think the ports industry
is at the moment?
(Mr Wadsworth) We have a very successful industry
which we can be proud of. It is a very efficient industry, it
is certainly amongst the most efficient in Europe, as is demonstrated
by its successful track record in competing with European ports,
notwithstanding the differences in subsidy practice, which we
have spoken about earlier. It is a growing industry, in some sectors
growing strongly, and we believe that it also demonstrates some
of the best standards in relation to environmental issues that
you can find.
83. To what extent does capacity exceed supply
or the other way round?
(Mr Wadsworth) We believe that the capacity shortfalls
prospectively arise mainly in the container and ro-ro sectors.
84. Is that going to prove a constraint upon
(Mr Wadsworth) If there is no way of providing additional
85. Has the Government suggested any way in
which it would provide additional capacity? Are there barriers
to it? Planning difficulties?
(Mr Wadsworth) Yes, of course there are planning cases
every time to expanding capacity and environmental issues as well.
There are four quite substantial development proposals either
in front of us or in the near horizon in the container sector
which will come before us for a decision and therefore the plans
are being made by the industry to expand the capacity. The issues
will have to go to local public inquiry and be debated.
86. That is specific instances. Are you really
saying that you do not foresee a problem in the future? Capacity
and organisation will match exactly, need and capacity will be
(Mr Wadsworth) It is important that the customers
should drive these decisions and that the ports should respond
to their customers. If they feel that they can only provide adequate
capacity by expanding their facilities they need to put forward
specific proposals to do that and indeed to raise finance to do
it. That is what they are in the process of doing and they will
then come before government to consider the wider issues which
87. You just said how successful the British
ports industry is. It has virtually been wiped off the map has
it not by Rotterdam? If you look at Rotterdam it would perhaps
be a premier league team. What is the best a British port can
do? Something like a third division one.
(Mr Wadsworth) No, that is not true at all. Felixstowe
is very much in the first division for example.
88. But not in the premier league.
(Mr Wadsworth) It is not as large as Rotterdam but
you have to take into account the fact that the hinterland of
Rotterdam is effectively the whole of continental Europe and the
hinterland of Felixstowe is simply the UK. Therefore it is not
a criticism of Felixstowe.
89. Was not part of the idea of having the Channel
Tunnel that we would actually be in a position to compete?
(Mr Wadsworth) The Channel Tunnel provides another
alternative on the short sea. There has been very strong growth
in that sector.
90. Is it not true that Felixstowe has an extremely
active firm as one of its major drivers, who, far from thinking
of Felixstowe as being part of the United Kingdom trade have very
clear plans for containerisation which run right the way round
the world in their own ships and their own lorries and that they
would certainly not regard Felixstowe as simply being access to
the United Kingdom market?
(Mr Wadsworth) There is an important transhipment
trade at Felixstowe amounting to something like 30 per cent of
all the traffic that comes into the port.
91. The markets on both sides of the Channel
may very well, although different in kind, be rather similar.
(Mr Wadsworth) It is true to say that the geographical
hinterland of Rotterdam is much larger.
Chairman: Yes, it is certainly land. Gentlemen,
you have been very instructive. We shall await your extra notes.
Thank you for coming.