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


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 360 - 368)

WEDNESDAY 14 MARCH 2001

MR MICHAEL EVERARD, CAPTAIN STEPHEN BLIGH, MR DAVID ASTBURY, MR JOHN A GOOD AND MR JONATHAN WILLIAMS

  360. I understand that but I should be extremely interested, unless of course it is commercially confidential, as to how much of that development is going to be used almost uniquely by your own company and your consortium partners and how much would be available for other users.
  (Captain Bligh) I would not be able to give you a direct split because the berths are being built for 2015 total usage and what the throughput is going to be then. So in the early days of the berth there will be more capacity for trade growth that we will not have taken up and as our trade grows then the availability to other users will reduce.

  361. I understand that you are looking to the long term. Is the same sort of deal being put together for the developments you referred to at Southampton and elsewhere?
  (Mr Good) The situation in Rotterdam and other continental ports is rather different from the ports here where the ports tend to be owned by one company. In Rotterdam land is leased out to different users who build their own terminals and quays. It is rather different. In the port of Rotterdam and Europort the different quays belong to different operatives. It is rather different. In Southampton this new development is by the owners of Southampton, AVP, the one they want to develop further, mainly because they can see—

  362. I presume that anybody, provided they pay the charges, will be able to use it?
  (Mr Good) Yes. At Southampton and Felixstowe it is more of a common user facility.

  363. Whereas in Rotterdam, for the reasons you explained and also Captain Bligh's explanation, it is unique usage by particular people who are prepared to cough up the money to invest in that.
  (Mr Good) Yes.

Chairman

  364. There is a mild inconsistency in some of the things you have told us, Mr Everard. One is that on the one hand you think it is very good when you pay no dues and therefore if it is subsidised by the taxpayers or the ratepayers of another country you may not necessarily agree with that in theory but you certainly do not object to taking the benefits from it in practice. On the other hand there is sufficient competition between all the ports in the United Kingdom to represent good value for money for those of you using those ports.
  (Mr Everard) On the whole that is correct. We are always worried. There is some degree sometimes of monopoly power in the UK ports. For instance, where you have a refinery in a port the refinery cannot move, it is worth several times more than the whole port. So there are captive customers. That is why we have this light touch approach, as we call it, of having certain degrees where we are able to appeal to the DETR or elsewhere to deal with these matters. All we are saying is that we are purely looking from the point of view of users.

  365. Yes, we have taken that on board.
  (Mr Everard) It is not up to us. We have a view but we cannot tell people not to subsidise.

  366. Suppose all users in effect right the way throughout the whole of Europe were using exactly the same basis, would you go along with that?
  (Mr Everard) No. Everything is very different. It is difficult to compare Rotterdam, a huge port, with all these little ports round the UK which actually do compete with each other in a way that Rotterdam does not. As has been pointed out, Rotterdam has terminals within the port. It is very difficult to compare that with ports round the UK, which, apart from where they have a monopoly position, where there is a refinery or a ferry terminal which has already been constructed, are very different. That is actually what worried us slightly about the European ports policy. What may be laid down for Rotterdam might not be right for Bristol, London or Liverpool or wherever else.

  367. Have you made that point to the Department?
  (Mr Everard) Yes, we have. We made it in advance of the document coming out.
  (Mr Astbury) Yes; in general terms.

Mr Stevenson

  368. Nevertheless is there not an issue of principle here? In the UK ports by and large any operator can use one so long as they pay the charges, but in Rotterdam that is not the case. By and large the ones which can use the port facilities are the ones which have use of those port facilities laid down because they have invested in them.
  (Captain Bligh) There are common user berths just the same in Rotterdam as there are in the UK ports where you will pay the owner of that facility and you will pay a stevedoring company. Just taking the issue of shipping companies investing, obviously for the throughputs we are looking at it is in our interest to take control of that part of our business.

  Chairman: Thank you very much, gentlemen, you have been very helpful.





 
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