Examination of Witnesses (Questions 180
WEDNESDAY 14 MARCH 2001
180. Gentlemen, may I welcome you most warmly
to the Committee and apologise for keeping you waiting for a moment
or two? May I ask you first of all to identify yourselves for
(Mr McKinney) Norman McKinney, Chairman of the United
Kingdom Maritime Pilots' Association.
(Mr Mills) George Mills, Vice-Chairman of the United
Kingdom Maritime Pilots' Association.
(Mr Cate) Les Cate, Executive Committee Member of
the United Kingdom Maritime Pilots' Association.
(Mr Graveson) Allan Graveson, National Secretary from
(Mr Linington) Andrew Linington, Head of Communications,
181. Did either of you want to make a short
opening statement or may we go straight to questions?
(Mr McKinney) Quite happy to go straight to questions.
(Mr Graveson) As far as we are concerned you may go
straight to questions.
182. What is the role of major ports in the
economy of the United Kingdom?
(Mr Graveson) The importance of ports cannot be underestimated
for an island nation. They are very important for the economy
of the nation as a whole and for the regions given that some 85
per cent of our trade is transported by sea. The efficiency and
effectiveness of our ports can determine the success or otherwise
of our industry.
183. What role are they going to have in future?
Is it going to change?
(Mr Graveson) There will be some changes in the future
if we move towards regional government. I have witnessed on a
recent visit to Italy that the regional government of Tuscany
is putting investment support into three major ports. It was intervening.
184. Do you think there are particular challenges
and what opportunities are there for the major ports?
(Mr Graveson) Clearly there are challenges and opportunities.
One of the challenges is meeting the requirements with respect
to capacity. Capacity is growing year on year as world trade grows,
therefore there is a necessity for development. Clearly that development
must be planned and measured.
(Mr McKinney) Basically I agree with all Mr Graveson
has just said. I should also like to add that it is very important
that our ports are safe havens for traffic and for shipping and
very important that they are financially viable.
185. Do you think that is likely to be challenged
in the future?
(Mr McKinney) Competition from our continental neighbours
will certainly increase. It is an ongoing thing all the time that
competition from ports like Hamburg, Rotterdam and Antwerp will
obviously have an impact upon our ports.
186. What do you think threatens their viability?
Is it the fact that many of them in this country are private ports
and state owned or regionally controlled in other countries?
(Mr McKinney) That is very important. My understanding
is that ports on the continent receive more financial assistance
than UK ports.
187. We have a lot of influence from the EC
on the way our ports are operated. What is your view of the European
Commission's Directive on ports services? How in particular will
it affect the provision of pilotage services in the UK?
(Mr McKinney) We are concerned about the EU Directive
on ports services, particularly in respect of pilotage. We believe
it would be a detrimental step and we do not believe it will enhance
the safety in our ports if competition in pilotage is introduced.
188. Do you think that Her Majesty's Government
has done enough to raise with the European Commission concerns
about the impact of the Directive on pilotage services?
(Mr McKinney) The Directive has only recently come
to light and we have not really got into this process yet. My
understanding of it is that the UK Government and the Department
of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) are now going
into a twelve-week period of consultation and discussion over
the Directive. We have mentioned the Directive to the DETR on
several occasions and they have said they have not seen it yet,
so they do not believe it is right to comment on something which
has not yet seen the light of day.
189. Are you saying you have not seen it?
(Mr McKinney) We have just briefly seen it now. We
have had it a matter of a couple of weeks now.
190. Will you be making representations direct?
(Mr McKinney) Certainly we have decided that we shall
be making representations on the Directive and particularly on
191. The UK Major Ports Group say in their evidence
that ports in the United Kingdom "... receive virtually no
financial support from central or local government". They
go on to say that the general pattern is that the infrastructure
of a port is owned and operated by public bodies in Europe. Would
you describe the support that these ports in Europe get through
this avenue as state aid?
(Mr Graveson) It depends how you determine "state
aid". Many countries in Europe are a little more judicious
in the interpretation of "state aid". What we are looking
at here is support for the infrastructure, that is the rail and
road links and the facilities at the ports, including berths,
channels. Therefore I would not say it is exactly so much state
aid as infrastructure investment.
192. NUMAST say in their evidence that other
European ports benefit from state funding.
(Mr Graveson) Yes, that is right, we interpret it
as state funding indeed because clearly the money is coming out
of the public purse. Yes, we can divide that as to whether it
comes from a regional government or whether it comes from central
193. I do not want to be pedantic but words
are important. You say that such arrangements "... may put
UK ports at a competitive disadvantage". Do you have evidence
to show that they are being put at a disadvantage or are you not
(Mr Graveson) The question here is that we need to
gather more evidence on this. There is no doubt that more evidence
needs to be gathered, but there is a general impression that that
is the case.
(Mr Linington) One of the examples we do quote in
the report is the recent sale of Newhaven and Folkstone and possibly
Ramsgate as well, where a French local authority is seriously
trying to purchase ports to keep maritime services flowing between
France and Britain. There is a concern there that we do not have
that same kind of strategic vision that certainly that regional
Mr Stevenson: We may have or not have strategic
vision. What I am particularly interested in are your comments
about state aid and support. Officially there is a European Union
regime on state aids and I for oneand I am sure colleagues
on the Committeewould be more than interested if you were
alleging that competitor ports in the EU other than the UK are
being subsidised by state aids. It would be extremely useful if
you were able to supply us with evidence which would justify those
194. Do you have any evidence? Has any research
(Mr Graveson) No, no research has been done and I
would admit that we have very little evidence. The difference
is in the structure of the ports in Europe compared with this
island of ours. There are very few ports on the continent of Europe
relative to this island nation which has a scattering of large
and small ports right around it. Therefore it is much easier for
those countries actually to provide the infrastructure in the
form of road and rail links to those ports. This is only what
we can witness by actually seeing it.
195. The Committee has to be fairly precise.
We are not arguing with you as to the rights and wrongs of it;
I do not want you to think that. We do need, if we are to follow
this argument, some evidence because most regional governments
would say they anyway have to provide an excellent infrastructure
to get goods backwards and forwards to ports. That could be taken
as an argument that perhaps the British Government is not so prepared
to put so much money into infrastructure. That is not a clear
definition of state aid. The point Mr Stevenson is trying to make
to you is that if we are clear in our own minds that regional
ports which are not privately owned, as the majority of them are
in this country, receive positive support we ought to know that.
What I am asking you is whether anyone has done any consistent
research that we could use.
(Mr Graveson) To the best of my knowledge no-one has
done any consistent research.
(Mr McKinney) We have no evidence of any.
Chairman: Of course I should never dream of
giving instructions to gentlemen but I am sure you will want to
go away and think about that.
196. May I just pursue this question of pilotage?
Surely with all the modern devices which are on ships pilotage
is not as important as it was.
(Mr McKinney) I certainly would not agree with that.
There may be a lot of new electronic equipment on board ships
but still when it comes to the heel of the hunt there is nothing
more appropriate than a pilot going aboard, particularly nowadays,
and we have had recent evidence of this, where a lot of the crews
are regarded as being sub-standard, from countries which are not
maritime countries. Our Association believes that the role of
the pilot is even more important in this day and age.
197. Is the number accidents growing?
(Mr McKinney) There is nothing to suggest that the
number of accidents is increasing or decreasing. We do have accidents
from time to time.
198. Your evidence suggests that things are
not as good as they should be but you do not actually have any
evidence for that.
(Mr McKinney) Yes, that is true. We could probably
do a bit more research on that.
199. What about the Pilotage Act 1987? Do you
think that is not working?
(Mr McKinney) When the Pilotage Act 1987 first came
into force in 1988 we found a lot of difficulties with the Pilotage
Act, particularly sections 2 and 3 on employment and self-employment.
It has settled down to a great extent. Unfortunately we did have
this very serious accident in Milford Haven in 1996 and since
that time we feel that a lot of measures have been taken, particularly
by DETR, to look into the workings of the Pilotage Act and to
review it to see where things had gone wrong so they could be
put right. We believe there is a much better atmosphere and things
are improving with regard to the Act.