Examination of Witnesses (Questions 340
WEDNESDAY 14 MARCH 2001
JOHN A GOOD
340. Do you think there really can be competition?
You have just talked about this new deep water berth at Rotterdam.
How much is that going to cost?
(Captain Bligh) I do not have those figures.
341. How many other people can afford to put
in a deep water berth like that, say in the UK or in other European
(Mr Everard) It is already happening. There are going
to be new developments at Shellhaven for a deep water port for
containers and there is a possible one going to happen at Southampton.
342. So there will be at least three alternative
sites which can take that size ship.
(Mr Everard) There will be enormous developments,
(Mr Good) If, say, in the port of Felixstowe it were
open to other operators, or in Southampton, it would make things
very difficult for the users of the ports because at the moment
Felixstowe perhaps cannot always cope at peak times. If it were
being split with another operator, it could cause quite a lot
of further congestion or even confusion. Certainly in the UK the
efficiency of ports has gone up immeasurably and there is competition
between the ports.
343. You would see the competition as between
the different ports rather than competition within a particular
port and you think that the cost of developing new deep water
ports is not so prohibitive that it will make competition very
(Mr Good) No, the major port operators, as we have
heard, have plans to develop their facilities further.
344. Earlier witnesses were a bit unhappy about
the safety of boats coming in and out of harbours. Do you have
any evidence that the 1987 Act has not worked well?
(Mr Everard) I think the 1987 Act has worked extremely
well. The position before was totally unsatisfactory. For instance,
I run a lot of small ships and we make thousands of voyages in
and out of UK ports every year. Before the 1987 Act in a lot of
places my ships go to, they could go without having a pilotage
exemption certificate. They just had to qualify because of their
trading pattern. What the whole 1987 Act has done is tighten up
all the procedures in that now the ports are responsible for making
sure that ships have the right people on board, who have the local
knowledge and also of course that people on board these ships
know the characteristics of their ships, they know how they handle.
What happened with the pilotage exemption certificates and the
way they work is that the person has to demonstrate ... I accept
the point you made about Milford Haven that the trippage requirement
was too low, but that has been amended and it does not apply,
as far as I know, in any other ports. The port authority is now
responsible for deciding. Remember that each port is different.
You cannot have the same rules in each port. If you are going
up a narrow river or a narrow channel, it is very different for
a ship just calling into a wharf which is well protected and does
not have the same sort of problems. You would expect the requirements
for going in and out of ports to be different in different ports
because of the very nature of the navigation to go to and from.
My view is that the 1987 Act has provided a very safe environment.
Of course there are a lot more pilotage exemption certificates
but what was not said in previous answers was that pilotage exemption
certificates did not exist to the same degree as they do today.
345. You do not think that they are now issued
because a port is interested in its commercial opportunities and
wants to attract shipping and therefore is prepared to issue this
certificate perhaps a little unwisely.
(Mr Everard) This is probably a bit of a problem.
I have a bit of a problem with one port myself which is actually
going the other way and that is that it is contravening the 1987
Act. The point about the 1987 Act was that where a person could
demonstrate he had local knowledge and he had the added advantage
which a pilot does not havebecause remember ships are not
like aeroplanes, they are all different, all have different handling
characteristicswhere that person has both those two things
together, he is a safer person than the pilot who is an adviser.
It is a very important service and I am not having anything said
against the pilots, they do a very good job, but where you have
a pilotage exemption certificate holder who can demonstrate both
local knowledge and the handling of his ship, it increases safety.
I should just like to make the point that if you actually look
at the Sea Empress, that had a pilot on board. I am not trying
to say that was necessarily the reason for the accident, but the
only ship I have lost in my own company in the last 30 years was
one with a pilot on board who we consider caused the incident
in the first place. Just by putting a pilot on board does not
make a ship safer, in fact in many cases a ship is much safer
where you have the person on board who has both the previous points
I have just made. The other point which was made was that it is
terrible to give pilotage exemption certificates to people doing
long voyages because they are too tired. A person doing very long
voyages could never meet the tripping requirements or the local
knowledge requirements so he is not going to get a pilotage exemption
certificate in the first place. The only people getting pilotage
exemption certificates are regular traders on short voyages.
346. So you would not accept that there might
be a problem with people who do not speak very good English.
(Mr Everard) That of course is up to the competent
harbour authority. The great thing is that now you have somebody
who is actually responsible locally to decide whether that person
is actually suitable to receive the exemption certificate.
347. There are commercial pressures, are there
(Mr Everard) There are always commercial pressures
in any form of life. May I say that in the shipping industry there
is nothing more ... An oil accident takes so much pressure and
time. It is in the media immediately. You just have to spill some
oil. I run 17 tankers. I spill some oil and the pressure on myself
is enormous. I only look after one thing day to day in my own
company, being Chairman, and that is safety. That is the only
thing I have day to day responsibility for.
348. Are you sure that everybody else takes
the same view as yourself?
(Mr Everard) You cannot always speak for everybody.
What I am saying, and I know Stephen will back this up, is that
running safe ships is the number one priority. I know you have
had other enquiries here about other spheres. I can assure you
that shipping is a very safety conscious industry. Remember we
are only talking about regular traders and the port authority
can decide whether people meet the right requirements for coming
in or out. They are the ones. Of course there are commercial pressures,
I accept that, but in fact it is rather like the port safety code
which we fully support: if somebody does not follow that as far
as an onshore incident is concerned, that is very good evidence
for prosecution under the Health and Safety that people were not
using the safety code.
349. If you are so concerned about safety, which
is great, is there a shortage of people in the industry now who
have the skills to do the work, both on ships and as they are
coming into port?
(Mr Everard) Everybody accepts there is. What the
solution is, is very difficult. We certainly want to work with
the ports in helping to ease that burden which is obviously on
them. The more seafarers we can have coming ashore who have actual
experience of what it is like to navigate and work, the better.
350. Are there enough seafarers to start with
so that some of them can come ashore?
(Mr Everard) No, there are not.
351. What are you doing about training?
(Mr Everard) What we are doing about training is that
Captain Bligh trains a lot of people, we train a lot of people;
we cannot solve the ports problem. The ports might have to introduce
their own training schemes which they are beginning to do to meet
their own problems. They might actually even have to sponsor cadets
or have their own training schemes in different ways to meet their
problems. We cannot as such solve the problems for them, though
I would love to think that we could have enough seafarers going
through the system who could. With the shipping inquiry you had
here before, there is no doubt that there should in theory be
increased training with tonnage tax, but it is going to need a
great deal more than that to get the right number of people coming
352. May I ask a question for clarification?
Captain Bligh, earlier on I understood you to say that your company
was investing in the Rotterdam development.
(Captain Bligh) Yes, with other partners, port authorities,
Rotterdam and so on.
353. Does that investment by your company as
a user mean that you will be given some priority or exclusive
rights to the use of that terminal when it is available?
(Captain Bligh) There will be an element of that involved
354. How much of an element?
(Captain Bligh) My own company operates in a consortium
partnership of a number of large shipping companies. The berths
will be available to us and our partners.
355. In the consortium.
(Captain Bligh) Yes.
356. Presumably the consortium are chipping
in, are they?
(Captain Bligh) No.
357. Neverthelessand I am sure you understand
why I am asking the questionare you able to give us some
idea of what proportion of the use of that terminal will be catered
for by yourselves and your partners in the consortium?
(Captain Bligh) There will be spare capacity on the
berths we are building to allow us to offer those to other port
358. Will you as one of the major investors
not only have some priority personal use for your company but
also some decisionmaking powers on who can use it?
(Captain Bligh) That it is based within the port of
359. That is the one I am referring to.
(Captain Bligh) Yes, there will be rules laid down
by the port of Rotterdam. The berth and the shore site facilities
are our responsibility. The pilotage within the harbour area is
still the responsibility of the Rotterdam harbour authority. We
are not building a new port, we are building berths within the