Examination of Witnesses (Questions 760
WEDNESDAY 28 MARCH 2001
760. The thing I cannot understand about this,
when we were at Grimsby we saw that the record for cars was brilliant,
there had not been a car damaged in a full year. If you are doing
that but if you have got high accident rates then you have got
some problems in terms of what your goods are like when they come
out of a port. One would presume that one goes with the other.
Given that fact, why is it that we have got such high levels?
Have we got so many damaged goods coming from and to the port?
(Mr Lerenius) There is always a human factor if you
relate it to goods. Once again, I do not disagree, I think that
if we had an incident rate we might say, and we would say, that
coming down to 12 is now a substantial improvement if you look,
say, five, six, seven years back from our point of view. We have
improved rather substantially but it is not good enough, I do
not disagree with that. We have to continue to improve on that.
761. Is the competition a factor between ports?
(Mr Lerenius) Not on safety, no, the safety is very,
very high profile in the ports business. In ABPI know more
about ABP obviouslysafety is the first point on the agenda
in all board meetings, we have an organisation which is very well
trained. We train all the people in the organisation and we continue
to train them and develop training. I would say that competition
has nothing to do with it. I do not think it ever can have anything
to do with competition frankly.
762. Why in the industry are there two bodies,
one safety and one training? Why do they not just merge into the
(Mr Lerenius) I think that is partly historical.
(Mr Dunn) We are members. We are involved in both.
From our point of view in the training stakes we do an awful lot
ourselves as well so we do not necessarily rely upon it but we
do encourage it. I think there is an argument as to whether there
should be a joining, whether that would be a more effective means
of dealing with training and safety, bringing the things together.
One of the things that is currently being examined by the business
at the present time is the future of the port safety organisation
in that how is that structure for the future. There are some discussions
about to start on that but it may lead us to the natural conclusion
that there should be a coming together. I think it is under review.
763. It is under review at present?
(Mr Dunn) The future of how we deal with the port
safety organisation is under review. I think it is a good question
as to how we structure those two things for the future.
764. Mr Cuthbert?
(Mr Cuthbert) I think the point you are making is
a very good one and there is one technical point I want to make,
not to be difficult. As far as the British Ports Industry Training
is concerned, it has what is called NTO -National Training Organisationstatus
from the Government and that is designated by the DfEE, the Department
for Education and Employment. To be an NTO you have to have an
independent board and be an independent body with industry representatives
being on your board of directors. In a sense, here for a smaller
organisation it is part of the fragmentation, but it is only part
of the answer it is not the whole answer, and I am not trying
to pull the wool over your eyes in any way.
765. As an industry you are great ones for going
off and doing your own little bits, are you not? It would be an
embarrassment if you all had to work together and meet agreed
(Mr Cuthbert) I think it would be very helpful if
this Committee could recommend that this was actually looked at
and we were encouraged to look at this.
766. Do not be surprised, Mr Cuthbert, if we
make all sorts of recommendations that we shall expect you to
follow with some vigour.
(Mr Cuthbert) Thank you.
767. I think you probably heard English Nature
suggest that they were not very happy with the planning process.
Have you got any views about the planning process for future developments?
(Mr Lerenius) Yes, it is no use to sit whining, we
are all part of the process, are we not? It is a rather complicated
process. I am not sure it is all in line with, say, the Government's
policy on sustainable development which is a very balanced view
on these things. Right now we sense that in comparison to how
things seem to develop and how fast planning seems to go on the
Continent, it is slower here. It seems that the environmental
organisation has quite some power over the process. I think also,
maybe, when you look at development, like a development in a port,
you could actually improve on congestion problems, CO2 problems,
etc. We are not really certain that they are put into the picture,
at least not enough consideration is put on that.
768. English Nature more or less were suggesting
that what we needed was agreement as to how many extra port facilities
were going to be needed over the next ten to 15 years. Your assertion
that it is three major developments which are needed, ought that
to be tested by the Government who should come up with some Government
strategy to say that three would be the solution or two would
(Mr Lerenius) We are then talking only about container
(Mr Lerenius) We are only talking about one business.
There will be a need for four developments if the UK is going
to stay competitive. There will be a need for more ports development
than that. Also, as Mr Dunn mentioned, there are more growth sectors
than the container business.
770. Do you think the first thing should be
for the Government to come to some view as to how much is needed
or should it be left totally to the market to decide?
(Mr Lerenius) I think frankly the market will decide
what is needed here.
771. If the market is going to decide, then
is it not right to have a very vigorous planning process to test
the market on each development?
(Mr Lerenius) I do not think we have any problems
with a vigorous planning process, that is fine. I understand that
is needed, these are major projects but we might have the view
that it is a bit slow.
772. Mr Cuthbert, do you want to comment?
(Mr Cuthbert) Yes, thank you. It is not dead certain
but it is almost inevitable that today in a development of this
size to obtain the various environmental consents a port developer
is going to be required to show that the project is financially
viable and possibly, too, that it is in the overriding public
interest this development goes ahead. The system that Mr Bennett
is describing is within the existing environmental consents procedure.
I would support Mr Lerenius in saying it is right that in public
inquiries the ports' position is tested against these kinds of
773. It is likely to be tested at the inquiries
into three major developments, is it not?
(Mr Cuthbert) Yes.
774. Would it not be better to have it tested
(Mr Cuthbert) With respect, I think that ignores the
position of the investors in these projects who are major PLC
type companies who are going to have to demonstrate to their shareholders
that they produce a return on these investments and to the bankers
who are going to finance them. Therefore, I think, having a system
where the port developer has to demonstrate the viability of his
project internally and to his banker and ultimately to his shareholders
and then to the Government in the form of an inquiry is a good
775. The complaint that has been put to us is
that it takes too long. How do you shorten that?
(Mr Cuthbert) I think that is more the issue of the
conflicting environmental regulations that are very complex and
very difficult to follow. I think it would be helpful if someone
could look at the whole of these environmental regulations and
see how the whole process could be made easier and in that we
would support English Nature.
Mr Bennett: How would it be made easier?
776. What aspect of it do you want changed?
(Mr Cuthbert) What I would like to see
is the Better Regulation Task Force look at this whole area so
we have consistent environmental regulations. At the moment the
environmental regulations differ from category to category so
that they are marginally different, say, between a special area
of conservation and a special protected area. It is very complex
and very difficult for everybody to follow a procedure that means
you get all the right approvals at one particular time in a logical,
progressive and systematic way.
777. Is there not a danger then that they might
be ratcheted up considerably? If you are looking for a common
denominator between a Site of Special Scientific Interest and
something that has an environmental impact but rather lower down
the scale, and you seek right the way across the board to treat
them in exactly the same way, would that not have the danger that
it might impose greater burdens?
(Mr Cuthbert) It might do but I would hope that it
778. You are suggesting that it is environmental
regulations which are difficult not the planning process?
(Mr Cuthbert) Yes, I think the planning process itself
through the planning acts for a port development are the relatively
easy bit. It is getting the environmental approval which is the
complex and costly and time consuming area.
779. You do not see that one of these major
developments will rival Terminal 5 in terms of the time that it
will take and money it will cost?
(Mr Cuthbert) I would hope not.