Examination of Witnesses (Questions 220
WEDNESDAY 14 MARCH 2001
220. There is a discriminatory approach, for
whatever reason, it may be legislative or otherwise, between the
area you are concerned about, that is pilotage, and the general
dock workers and crew and so on. Would you agree with that?
(Mr McKinney) Yes, I think that is it.
(Mr Mills) Indeed in your own document you have the
number of accidents proven in the dock industry and in the port
221. Where does the Health and Safety at Work
Act come in?
(Mr Mills) It is one side of the bulwark rail of a
ship to another. Where the actual demarcation lies is a very grey
area and where it begins and finishes.
222. You are really saying to us that existing
Health and Safety legislation is not sufficient to cover the groups
other than the pilotage groups. Are you suggesting that the pilots
would be given specific attention because of the fact that they
are regarded as being skilled?
(Mr Mills) Our understanding is that Health and Safety
comes up to the quay wall. Once you are actually sea-borne or
river-borne, you are water-borne, ...
223. So I step off the quay.
(Mr Mills) ... you step on board a ship, then you
come more under the MCA than Health and Safety.
224. Presumably the port safety committees are
established under the Health and Safety regime.
(Mr McKinney) Yes.
(Mr Mills) Yes.
225. You have commented in your evidence that
the port safety committees do exist but the users of the ports
are never represented on them. Who is represented on the port
(Mr Mills) The membership ranges from dock masters,
maybe a VTS operator, maybe a guy from the sailing club. Sometimes
a pilot has been included. The makeup of such committees is really
down to who can make
226. You are giving me the impression that the
makeup of these extremely important committees may be described
as ad hoc. Would you disagree with that?
(Mr Mills) Some of those committees have been ad
227. Before we get away from the port and marine
safety code may I bring you back to the question of accountability?
In the Modern Ports document it does say that the code will mean
harbour authorities must be openly accountable for their legal
duties and powers and the code will hold them accountable for
the outcome of their policies etcetera. Are you saying that does
not really mean anything in terms of legal responsibility?
(Mr Mills) We have been seeking a meeting with Keith
Hill for quite some time now to discuss the whys and wherefores.
228. Are you saying that there are no sanctions?
(Mr Mills) From our understanding of the port and
marine safety code there do not appear to be any sanctions. What
we were looking for was to see what kind of verification there
would be or whether legislation would be given to this port and
marine safety code. Apparently, unfortunately, due to time and
everything else our understanding is that it has been put back.
229. It says the code is a national standard,
guide to best practice. You are saying that it is in effect just
a wish list without any way of making sure that it is brought
into operation. Is that what you are telling us?
(Mr Mills) Yes, that is the general impression we
230. The British Port Industry Training Board:
an employers' poodle?
(Mr Graveson) With respect to the British Port Industry
Training Board, I have recently been appointed to that Board,
along with a union representative of the Transport and General
Workers' Union. It is predominantly employers. It is not based
on a tripartite system of employers, employee representatives
and the educators. It is very much employer led. There is nothing
wrong with it being employer led, but here it is a question of
it being dominated.
231. Does it not do a good job?
(Mr Graveson) The question we must ask is how good
a job is it doing when we look at the accidents in our ports?
On 12 March I attended a conference opened by Mr Keith Hill, Shipping
Minister, and attended by Bill Callaghan of the Health and Safety
Commission. It was identified that our ports are the worst shore-based
industry from the point of view of accidents, more dangerous than
deep coal mining. Thirty per cent of the accidents were taking
place on board ship and some 70 per cent in the docks themselves
between the docks and the dock gate. We are obviously profoundly
concerned over that.
232. Do you see that because people are not
trained or is it poor equipment and poor management which are
(Mr Graveson) Like all these things it is a combination.
Training is vital, safety training is vital, there is no doubt
about that. Clearly it is how our ports are designed as well.
Many of them have been, shall we say, pressured to expand, some
of them in very old infrastructure and that in itself might have
some contribution to this. There is also the question of effective
policing. The Health and Safety Commission are getting additional
resources, I was informed by Mr Bill Callaghan. However, with
respect to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency we were told there
were 120 surveyors. In actual fact that are not 120 surveyors
responsible for inspecting in ports because they have to undertake
other duties as well. We have reason to believe that it is something
in the region of 15 man years; only 15.
233. There are only 15 staff available to inspect
(Mr Graveson) No, there are 120 but when it is aggregated
down, because they have other duties, it comes to approximately
234. Have you noticed a change in relation to
(Mr Graveson) No, there is no change at all.
235. The change in the surveyors' duties has
only really taken effect in the last year and a half.
(Mr Graveson) That is correct. However, the swingeing
cuts which took place four or five years ago in the Maritime and
Coastguard Agency have not been rectified. Given the expansion
of the UK fleet, many of them have to be diverted to other duties.
236. When they come to inspect ports and they
make recommendations for changes, are those changes enforced quickly?
(Mr Graveson) I must just point out that the MCA do
not inspect ports. They look on board ships and at the working
practice on board ships. The Health and Safety Executive look
to the dryside in the ports themselves. Yes, recommendations can
take place and yes, they are effected quickly when that does happen.
The problem is that there are not enough people to do the inspections.
237. So not enough is happening. What about
the qualified people generally within the industry? Are enough
people obtaining qualifications? Is the Training Board doing well
on the rest of it if it is not doing well on the safety side?
(Mr Graveson) You have to look at this on two levels
and in relation to the skills involved. From the point of view
of ex mariners there is no doubt, and from the Guildhall study
which stated we need some 1,450 new entrants to sustain our maritime
base, that clearly we are only achieving about one third of that
and clearly difficulties are starting to come about now in that
238. Could you give us some particular examples
of the difficulties?
(Mr Graveson) Yes. The difficulties are when you are
wanting people with past seagoing experience to work in ports
as superintendents and work on board ships as well and in management,
largely because of the competition, certainly from the City of
London, there is some evidence to suggest that it is difficult
to attract people.
239. The week before last the Committee saw
a container port in Barcelona which is about to double its existing
size, although interestingly enough it is facing the wrong way
down the Mediterranean. I should like to know whether you are
satisfied at the length of time it has taken to get a proper modern
ports policy? Do you believe the Government have been tardy or
are you satisfied with the time it has taken?
(Mr Graveson) It is a question of priorities, is it
not? At least we have something on the table. It is a decade since
we had anything. Now at least we have a document there to work
to. What needs to happen of course is for it to be implemented
with the appropriate resources.