Examination of Witnesses (Questions 92
WEDNESDAY 14 FEBRUARY 2001
92. Gentlemen, I am grateful to you for coming
this afternoon. Would you be kind enough to identify yourselves
for the record in any order which you feel best?
(Mr Gray) My name is Chris Gray and I am here today
in my capacity as Chairman of the UK Major Ports Group. I am also
Chief Executive of Hutchison Ports (UK), with specific responsibility
for the ports of Felixstowe, Harwich and Thamesport.
(Mr Dempster) My name is John Dempster. I am the Director
of the United Kingdom Major Ports Group.
(Mr Sloggett) I am Jonathan Sloggett and I am Chairman
of the British Ports Association European Committee and Managing
Director of the Port of Dover.
(Mr Whitehead) I am David Whitehead. I am the Director
of the British Ports Association.
93. Did either of you want to make any general
remarks before we start?
(Mr Whitehead) We put the main points in the submission
which we made. Perhaps a little bit of scene-setting, which we
tried to do in the submission, about the scale of the UK industry.
We put some figures in there about scale and importance of the
industry, but just to emphasise that the UK industry is the largest
in the EU. We have the most number of ports in the EU, so it is
a very significant player in EU terms and obviously a very significant
player within the UK generally.
94. How important are major ports to the economy
of the United Kingdom?
(Mr Dempster) The witnesses from the Department put
it very well because ports are clearly an integral part of the
supply chain and 95 per cent of the country's trade by tonnage
passes through our ports. We can fairly claim they are a very
important component in the economy and in the transport infrastructure
of the country.
95. Is that going to be the same in the future?
Better or worse?
(Mr Dempster) The total tonnage passing through the
ports is slowly increasing year on year and has for a number of
96. What are the most prominent challenges and
opportunities which are going to be faced by the major ports?
(Mr Dempster) Probably the biggest challenge which
you were discussing with the departmental witnesses is going to
be the need to provide additional capacity for container traffic
and the associated problems which will arise in dealing with that.
The other very serious challenge which we mentioned in our paper
is the European Commission's proposal for a Directive on Access
to Port Services, which we shall no doubt be discussing more fully
97. To what extent does the demand for port
services currently exceed supply?
(Mr Dempster) I would not have thought it does at
present, but on the forecasts, certainly in the container sector,
we envisage that within two to three years, unless additional
capacity is forthcoming, then the existing capacity will be exhausted.
98. What will be the constraints at that time?
(Mr Dempster) The constraints will be the planning
process and the procedures and the issues which will need to be
addressed in securing the consents for provision of additional
99. How severe is the pressure for expansion
of container and freight port capacity? I should imagine this
will be part of the influence in any planning decision.
(Mr Dempster) Yes, indeed. There is growing pressure
certainly in the container sector. There is also growth in the
ro-ro sector, but I would not expect that the capacity problems
will be as acute in that sector.
(Mr Sloggett) May I add a word on the ferry sector?
Obviously the opening of the Channel Tunnel has brought a very
considerable amount of additional capacity into the ferry market.
Nevertheless it is a market which is growing quite robustly with
possibly the exception of the last couple of years with the loss
of duty free. I would not have expected the problems of providing
capacity in the ferry market to be anything like as severe as
it is going to be in the container market.