Examination of Witnesses (Questions 560
WEDNESDAY 28 MARCH 2001
560. That is all?
(Dr Huggett) That is all I wish to comment on, yes.
561. It may not be all I wish to ask you. Dr
Avery, are you suggesting that because they need to use their
assets more wisely they therefore are much more environmentally
(Dr Avery) I do not think we could rely on that always
being the case, no.
562. Do you think that ports make more effort
to give environmental assessments?
(Dr Avery) There has been progress over the last few
years. Whether that is to do with privatisation or whether it
is to do with changing climate of opinion I would not like to
say. One of the issues that perhaps does come out of privatisation
is that the government is taking less of a close look at our need
563. Less of a close look? Do you mean it is
not looking at ports closely?
(Dr Avery) And the need for them. In the White Paper,
the government specifically avoided making forecasts of port traffic
for the future. We believe that that is a mistake. How can one
take a view about how many ports we need and where they are needed
without taking a view on how much traffic should be coming through
them. Government takes a view on lots of other areas of development
which are largely in the private sector, such as housing. It takes
a view of how many houses will be needed in south-east England.
Organisations like our own have done some work on trying to predict
how much extra need for ports there will be. This seems to be
an area that government has walked away from a little, which is
fundamental to understanding what the future of ports should be
and what their contribution should be.
564. An awful lot of people who have given evidence
quote your piece of work on ports. Is not that suggesting that
it is already being done in that there is an adequate piece of
work there, or are you saying that your work was not good enough?
(Dr Avery) Our work was quite good but we are planning
to update that work now because it will become out of date. Certainly
the resources that an NGO can put into this ought to be rather
smaller than government, but my colleague may wish to comment.
565. I do not think that the government can
compete with the charities in this country for money.
(Dr Huggett) A key aspect of the work that we didand
it was carried out for us by a respected consultancy in the ports
industrywas that whilst it made predictions on likely shortfalls
in capacity by 2010, particularly in the container and roll-on/roll-off
sectors, the report raised a number of what we believe to be very
important questions which still have not been answered. That is
why we are carrying out further work, to have a look at some of
566. Such as?
(Dr Huggett) A particularly important one that we
want to see addressed is the role of non-infrastructure development
in meeting those capacity shortfalls. How much can we achieve
through improving efficiency of ports, through
567. You just told us they are very much more
efficient than they were.
(Dr Huggett) They are far more efficient than they
were. However, in a recent report in Lloyd's List, it was
brought to our attention that there are ports in the world which
are three times as efficient as the most efficient port in the
568. Name them.
(Dr Huggett) Salalah.
569. Would you like to give us a country to
attach that to?
(Dr Huggett) I am afraid I cannot. I do not know.
570. When you find out where it is, do let us
(Dr Huggett) I assumed that, because it was published
in Lloyd's List, that it would be a reasonable representation.
571. That may be one of your mistakes.
(Dr Huggett) Indeed, but I think there are important
issues such as what can be achieved through the application of
new technology, superstructure, information technology etc., before
we have to rely on infrastructure development.
572. If you are relying on this mythical place,
it could totally destroy your argument, could it not, because
it might be so efficient because it has huge amounts of space
and therefore is able to operate much more efficiently because
of the extra space than being able to do it in what are perhaps
cramped existing dockland areas?
(Dr Huggett) My understanding, for instance with containers,
is that the constraining features of a port with respect to movement
of containers is the quay length and the working area behind.
I am not in a position to comment on whether the United Kingdom
ports are constrained in that matter.
573. I am still not convinced by this argument.
Give me a specific instance in which the reorganisation of container
traffic will efficiently produce an enormous change in the infrastructure
needed for a particular port.
(Dr Huggett) Can you explain your question?
574. Are you really saying that if they reorganise
the way they handle containers this would make it much easier?
There will be some enormous benefit from this? You think therefore
that this would presumably what? Cut down the amount of port traffic?
I am not at all with you, Dr Huggett.
(Dr Huggett) The argument is that, by increasing their
efficiency, they are able to handle more port traffic on the existing
estate. They are moving containers more quickly across the quayside
and through the container stack.
(Dr Avery) A type of example would be stacking containers
higher, having better computerised records of where containers
are so that they are more efficiently found and moved around,
not having areas set aside for particular operators, but sharing
the whole area more efficiently. It is to do with basically a
more efficient way of stacking boxes up and moving them around.
575. You do not think that this has occurred
to the port authorities?
(Dr Avery) I am sure it has, but the more government
and the public put pressure on developers in any industry to make
the most of the area that they already have the more they will
use their ingenuity to find efficiencies.
576. You can name a major port in this country
that is not seeking to become more efficient and has demonstrated
the desire to develop very quickly without using its existing
estate, can you?
(Dr Avery) I cannot, but you can see that if it is
easy to gain more land in order to gain that efficiency then that
is a route down which any developer might go. The more developers
are constrained to become more efficient on the land they have
already, the more imaginative they will be about that. That is
what we should encourage because port developments are going to
be environmentally damaging.
577. But you do not know of one offhand?
(Dr Avery) No. I could not tell you of one offhand.
578. No one has brought to you an argument that
says, "This particular port is being expanded in such a way
which is wasteful of land; they are throwing away money on buying
acres they do not need because they do not want to buy a computerised
(Dr Huggett) We are aware of arguments concerning
certain port proposals at the moment.
579. Which ones?
(Dr Huggett) I am aware of arguments put about the
port of Southampton, as to whether they are using their existing
estate as efficiently as possible.