Examination of Witnesses (Questions 160
WEDNESDAY 14 FEBRUARY 2001
160. In what way?
(Mr Dempster) One example which we were discussing
is this question of trying to develop performance indicators and
measures of efficiency.
161. Why should you not have performance indicators?
(Mr Dempster) I am not saying we are opposed to that,
it is just that this is a new initiative on the part of the Government
to start seeking to interest itself in the comparative efficiency
of ports which has not been the practice hitherto.
162. It is not terribly sinister though, is
it really? If we do not know how much use ports are to the economy
of the United Kingdom, we do not know how efficient they are and
we do not know how well they are doing their job, it is very difficult
either to defend them within the European institutions or to demonstrate
how useful they are to the United Kingdom overall.
(Mr Dempster) We do not regard it as sinister. I just
commented on it as an example of a slightly more interventionist
163. That is because there has been no involvement
in the ports industry as far as I can see for the last 25 years,
am I not right?
(Mr Dempster) There was considerable involvement in
the late 1980s and early 1990s.
164. Yes; perhaps I was thinking that it was
earlier than it was. What aspects of the development of the ports
industry should the Government seek to influence? What is exclusively
the responsibility of the owners and managers and what should
the Government be looking at?
(Mr Dempster) Ports operate under statutory powers
granted by Parliament so it is obviously right that the Government
should look at the way these statutory powers are exercised. In
that sense, it is right that they should take a closer interest
than perhaps they do in some. Certainly it is entirely legitimate
and proper that the Government should look at some of the issues
we have been discussing in terms of safety and the environment.
There is also of course the issue which has been continually discussed:
the place of ports in transport infrastructure both in relation
to the landside links and in the new developments of port facilities
165. Is it sensible for UK ports to compete
one against another?
(Mr Dempster) I think so. It is important to remember
that this is a market driven industry. There is no economic regulation
in our industry. It is market driven and there is healthy competition
between many of our ports.
166. Are you quite convinced that you have sufficient
capacity? Would you confirm what was said to us earlier?
(Mr Gray) We have sufficient capacity for the container
trade for the next three to five years maximum.
167. You are assuming that the existing schemes
which have been suggested or discussed at the present time would
provide you with future capacity.
(Mr Gray) Ongoing capacity for the future past 2010.
168. Is much traffic transported across the
Channel from the Belgium ports or Rotterdam? Is much traffic deposited
in Rotterdam and transferred over to our ports?
(Mr Gray) Do you mean transhipped, for example?
169. That is right.
(Mr Gray) UK final destination.
170. That is right.
(Mr Gray) There is some but it is a limited amount
only. Most of it is direct haul.
171. Is it because of capacity or is it because
of something else?
(Mr Gray) It is mostly because of cost. It is an additional
handling, an additional leg and there is an additional cost attached
172. What are you doing to try to change that
kind of approach or what is happening so they can come straight
into UK ports?
(Mr Gray) We are continuing to provide the additional
capacity for which a lot of the plans are already on the table
now. One thing we are going to have to do going into the future
is to provide deep-water berths because ships are getting bigger.
This has been well publicised in the trade press and it is absolutely
essential for the UK, if we are to compete with the North European
ports and remain a world player, to provide deep-water berths
going into the future.
173. How advanced are the plans to provide deep-water
(Mr Gray) We are not that advanced but some of these
plans which are on the table at the moment will provide that going
into the future, but it will require some quite substantial dredging
projects which again have an environmental influence. It is also
going to take some considerable investment. With this Directive
on Access to Port Services hanging over us, I have to say that
certainly from my own group, we are gravely concerned about the
impact it is likely to have on our own ports in the United Kingdom.
We will have to revisit our own programme of investment for the
future in the light of it.
174. Are you happy with the length of time it
has taken for the Government to begin to take an interest in ports?
We are dancing around this. Are you saying it is going to cost
us so much that if we are going to compete equally and we are
going to move into deep-water ports, then we are going to have
to find a way of getting support for the infrastructure? Is that
what you are saying?
(Mr Gray) We shall definitely require support from
the Government to improve the infrastructure.
175. Are you happy with the Government's plans,
the fact that they now are beginning to declare they have a plan
and a future for ports? What is your attitude towards that or
is it simply that you hope you will bowl along quite cheerfully
until you require the cash and then they will cough up?
(Mr Gray) So far in the main we have received support.
It remains to be seen what happens going forward into the future
and in particular the necessary consents which are going to be
required in order to provide this additional expansion in the
four ports which were described earlier.
176. No Government is going to ignore all its
existing environmental involvements or its local involvements
or the need for infrastructure in order to help one particular
aspect of the transport industry, is it?
(Mr Gray) Correct.
177. What kind of capital are we talking about?
(Mr Gray) It depends on the port, on the depth of
water required, on dredging requirements. We normally work on
a rule of thumb to build a single berth container terminal which
is around £80 million, but you can go from £80 million
up to £140 million depending upon the port and the location.
178. Are you saying that no work has been done
by any of the port authorities on the provision of deep-water
berths at this time?
(Mr Gray) At this time we havenot wishing to
sound about my own company all the timein Felixstowe a
harbour revision order application has been submitted to provide
an additional deep-water berth as an extension to the Trinity
terminal. At Dibden Bay, Associated British Ports have also lodged
a harbour revision order application to build a very substantial
container port. We also are in the process of submitting an application
for permission to dredge at Harwich in order that we can develop
Barside Bay which is directly adjacent to Harwich port which will
provide another four deep- water berths.
179. We can take it that you have at least thought
(Mr Gray) This is going on all the time.
Chairman: I am very grateful to you gentlemen,
it has been very interesting. Thank you for coming.