Examination of Witnesses (Questions 640
WEDNESDAY 28 MARCH 2001
640. The RSPB in their earlier evidence, which
I think you heard, were implying that if you actually brought
your equipment and handling up to date you might be able to do
it with the existing space rather than having to take more habitat
that the birds might want.
(Mr Gray) We have some of the most modern equipment
in the world. We have the latest generation of cranes.
641. Cranes or gantries?
(Mr Gray) We have quayside gantry cranes and we have
rubber tyred gantries in the port.
(Mr Mordaunt) We are a deep water port. We are as
deep as the ports Mr Gray has been talking about. Bristol is the
cheapest deep water expansion in the United Kingdom. We have 18
metres, which is enormous, within two miles of our current dock.
With far less dredging than most other ports, Bristol could be
642. Hunterstone does not need any dredging
at all, does it?
(Mr Mordaunt) It is a long way from the market, but
you are absolutely right.
(Mr Jones) We have a requirement for further development
of roll-on/roll-off facilities on the Mersey in particular in
order to service the growing Irish Sea traffic. Those requirements
are being substantially met by redevelopment of brown field sites
within the port area, because clearly the port of Liverpool has
a long history and there are some areas of land that were used
in previous times that have ceased to be used in recent times.
We do not have the same pressure of land requirement. We do have
a container facility in Liverpool which is on a much smaller scale
than Felixstowe or Southampton but is still reasonably substantial.
We serve a much smaller market in the north west as opposed to
the south east. I would take issue with some of the points that
were made by the RSPB representative. All the container ports
in the United Kingdom have been investing substantially in improving
handling equipment and management systems in order to make sure
that we were making the most effective use of the land resources
available to us. It should also be borne in mind that we do not
have full control over the periods of time that pieces of equipment,
containers, stay on the quay in our ports. That clearly depends
on how quickly the end customer wants to receive the goods.
643. You can charge him.
(Mr Jones) You can but that will flow through to consumer
prices in due course. It will inevitably add to the inefficiency
of the overall transport chain because if a box has to move from
the port to an inland storage area before it goes to the end customer
it involves additional handling at an additional cost.
644. Presumably you are capable of doing the
economic balancing act that says it is not in our interest to
use up large areas of land with containers that are not going
to be moved for some period of time.
(Mr Jones) Indeed. We do all impose quay rents but
they are levels of rent that are acceptable to customers.
Mr Bennett: The example the RSPB gave of this
mythical port somewhere in the worldI do not know where
it isthat does reach much higher standards. Does it actually
reach much higher standards?
645. Do you know?
(Mr Gray) The port Dr Huggett referred to is in the
Oman. It is actually owned and operated by a shipping line.
646. Which one?
(Mr Gray) Maersk Sealand.
647. What is the significance of the fact that
it is owned and run by the shipping company?
(Mr Gray) They can schedule the vessels perhaps more
efficiently in order to meet the demands of the capacity on the
berth. It is possible and does happen.
648. Would they have total control over their
(Mr Gray) They have control over the operation.
649. Is it a recently built and modernised port?
(Mr Gray) It is fairly recently built and modernised.
It is a new port. It is a new facility.
650. With new equipment?
(Mr Gray) Yes.
651. Do you think there are too many ports in
the United Kingdom, too many small ports particularly, that should
(Mr Gray) As I believe most of the ports in the United
Kingdom are now privatisedthere are some trust and municipal
ports but they are run on a much more commercial basis nowit
is a very much market led industry. I would assume that if those
ports are able to survive then there is enough business to sustain
the number of ports we already have.
652. Do you believe there would be any advantage
in shutting smaller ports down, decommissioning them?
(Mr Gray) I cannot comment on that.
653. Would you like to comment on it, as Bristol
is one of the small ones?
(Mr Mordaunt) We are not that small. There are some
very little ports, nearly all trust ports, that probably do not
have a future. There is no doubt that since privatisation the
United Kingdom port industry has come back to its roots which
are the main ports like Bristol, Liverpool, London and away from
places that started to handle cargo because the big ports became
very inefficient. That drift will continue. I think some of the
small ports at the ends of peninsulas will have difficulty, but
market forces will sort that out.
654. Do you not think that with so many ports
investment in these ports is less likely, given that shipping
companies can move between ports? It is going to lead to a situation
where prices are keener. Therefore, not allowing that investment
is to the detriment of the United Kingdom PLC?
(Mr Mordaunt) Say that again; I am sorry?
655. If there is more competition between more
ports and the smaller ones are not putting the money in, is this
not in the long run to the detriment of our economy?
(Mr Mordaunt) There is plenty of competition between
the larger ports. It is highly competitive.
656. What impact has the current structure of
the industry with the numerous competing ports have with an investment
and landside communication links, such as roads and railways to
(Mr Mordaunt) What effect does it have?
657. Yes. The fact is that if you went down
to eight ports across the whole of the United Kingdom and there
was an integrated transport policy at the back end of that which
led to more railway links, that would be better for the movement
of all goods, would it not?
(Mr Jones) The issue of movement of goods by rail
and road is not one that is entirely related to rail connections
being available in ports. Most of the major ports, if not all,
have reasonable rail links currently and are probably not making
the maximum use of them. Those rail links are not being used to
full capacity currently, but that is an issue between the relative
economics of road transport and rail transport. The difficulty
with rail transport is, notwithstanding that you can put a container
onto a train in the port of Liverpool or the port of Felixstowe,
once it goes inland, it has to go on a road vehicle eventually
and there is a significant cost involved in that eventual road
movement. The saving in moving a reasonable distance by rail and
moving the same distance by road is not so great as to compensate
for the additional cost of the eventual road movement following
the rail movement, if you follow.
658. Not really.
(Mr Jones) You cannot move from port to factory
659. But you can have a siding outside the factory.
(Mr Jones) Somebody would have to make a very substantial
investment in rail infrastructure.