Memorandum by the British Section of the
International Navigation Association (PIANC) (P 34)
OPPORTUNITIES AND DEVELOPMENT PROSPECTS AT
PIANC is a non-political, non-aligned organisation
which draws upon the very extensive experience of its members
in the development, maintenance and operation of waterways and
ports and in the effects of the implementation of policies of
different national governments and regulatory authorities. The
Maritime Board of the Institution of Civil Engineers looks to
PIANC for the formulation of advice on waterborne transport issues.
2. COMMENTS ON
The following comments have been put forward
by members of PIANC's British National Committee.
(i) Contribution of major ports to the economy
of the United Kingdom
About 95 per cent of all freight by tonnage
enters and leaves the country by sea, by definition passing through
ports which therefore form a key element of the UK's transport
infrastructure. Ports also represent an employment base for some
25,000 people directly with a very large number of indirect jobs
depending on these.
(ii) Current problems and opportunities (co-operation,
safety, the environment and regulation)
Co-operation with other portsThe UK Port
industry is diverse in the structure of its components, both commercially
and constitutionally, with a variety of types of public and private
It is unique in Europe in being generally independent
of Government, giving it flexibility in response to its market.
It is far closer to the "user pays" concept than any
other nation's ports and, as such, is a model for the EU.
The industry is competitive with many different
groups and individual ports represented. Co-operation between
ports is therefore limited although co-ordination at regional
level for cost saving is perfectly feasible and port rationalisation
by the Regional Development Agencies should be encouraged.
Opportunities exist for coastal ro-ro as one
answer to road and rail congestion in freight movement. Such solutions
are environmentally friendly and sustainable. They could be encouraged
by extension of the Freight Facilities Grant to ports and shipping
lines and by the achievement of greater balance and perspective
in the regional planning system.
SafetyThe Port Marine Safety Code has
been well received in the industry, having been developed in co-operation
with the ports. It deals well with navigational safety and organisational
accountability. Reviews such as the Trust Ports Review have also
defined the lines of responsibility for matters such as safety
much more clearly.
One problem arising in the area of operational
safety is the shortage of pilot recruits due to the decline of
the British Flag fleet. Onshore, a main safety concern remains
the competence of contractors' labour, now increasingly employed
in the fragmented ports industry.
EnvironmentNew responsibilities are being
assigned to ports (eg for waste management, environmental liability
and coastal management). The Special Areas of Conservation (SAC)
and Special Protection Areas (SPA) designations are spreading
with sometimes inadequate scientific discussion.
Modern Ports: A UK Policy recognises that in
certain circumstances an overriding public interest may allow
a development which will have an adverse environmental effect
on designated sites (2.4.19). In such circumstances developers
are properly required to take all reasonable steps to mitigate
the effects. However, the definition of "reasonable"
varies widely, and the costs and benefits of mitigation should
be evaluated on a logical basis, and not as a ransom payable to
allow a development project to proceed.
This is especially important given the strong
lobbying power and resources of some of the "green"
RegulationThere seem to be few problems
here and the recent use of Codes of Practice by DETR (eg Port
Marine Safety Code) is welcomed by the industry as an optimal
(iii) Modern Ports: A UK Policy
The document has been generally well received
by the ports industry which sees it as Government acceptance that
the industry is market-led. It is noted that information and data
will be required by Government and there is concern as to where
this might lead.
The document rightly rules out transport policy
formulation by greater regulation. The comment that "it is
not Government's job to run the ports industry is welcome".
EU (1.1.6)UK Government should make further
efforts to ensure port competition on level terms with other EU
countries. The fact that most EU ports are subsidised by public
funding in operational and development areas is contrary to the
"user pays" principle espoused by the EC. (See also
comments under ivOther policies of benefit to ports).
New uses for surplus port sites (2.4.4)Where
a port has surplus capacity, alternative developments of sites
should allow for future development of coastal shipping or even
inland shipping. Yesterday's deep-water berths might well be tomorrow's
A new approach to appraisal (2.4.13)The
document refers to a process christened "A new approach to
appraisal" which hints that Government approvals for port
development might start to take in a review of what facilities
may be available in other ports. This would be resisted by independent
ports since they are in competition with each other.
Access to ports other than by road (2.4.18)The
points raised in Modern Ports concerning improvement of access
to ports by means other than road transport must be welcomed with
its implication of rail or canal, river and estuary development.
However, there is some concern that any action in this direction
is likely to be highly selective and a long time coming.
Municipal ports (3.1.12)The proposals
aimed at municipal ports (3.1.12) seem logical. This is a sector
causing commercial imbalance in some English regions and overdue
(v) Other policies of benefit to ports
RegulationsIt would be helpful if DETR
could co-ordinate the requirements of all Government Regulations
of concern to ports (eg Habitats Directive related legislation,
Food and Environment Protection Act, Immigration and Asylum Bill)
to ensure that they are applied in a way which takes account of
the particular circumstances of this sector.
EuropeThe question of who pays for the
infrastructure relating to the provision of access to ports, whether
by road or by sea, has a major effect on future port developments.
This is closely linked to the question of public subsidy in the
European context as well as in the UK. Various European countries
recognise the importance of thriving growth of ports as part of
the transport infrastructure, to provide leverage for private
sector investment to develop the wide variety of industries and
services which benefit from being close to a modern port. There
is a clear need for transparency regarding all public sector investment
related to port developments. However, there is also a need for
Government to recognise that provision of basic infrastructure
(such as roads, railways, shipping channels and navigational aids)
can be financed either by the public or private sectors, but in
either case needs to be treated in the same way by all EU member
There is much concern in the UK over the forthcoming
European Access to Port Services Directive which could force the
break-up of relatively small port organisations which offer comprehensive
services. It is understood that the Directive could require ports
to allow access to third party contractors for carrying out such
functions as pilotage, stevedoring etc, on a competitive basis.
This is more appropriate to the government financed Continental
ports and should not be made to apply to self-financing UK ports.
Chairman, PIANC British Section