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


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 92 - 99)

WEDNESDAY 14 FEBRUARY 2001

MR CHRIS GRAY, MR JOHN DEMPSTER, MR DAVID WHITEHEAD AND MR JONATHAN SLOGGETT

Chairman

  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 years.

  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 later.

Mr O'Brien

  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 capacity.

  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.


 
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