Memorandum by The Corporation of Trinity
House (P 39)
INQUIRY INTO OPPORTUNITIES AND DEVELOPMENT PROSPECTS
AT MAJOR PORTS
This Memorandum contains the views of Trinity
House within the terms of reference of the Transport Sub-Committee's
Inquiry into Opportunities and Development Prospects at Major
Ports. Trinity House welcomes the opportunity to assist the Committee
in its Inquiry.
Due to the specialist nature of its maritime
role with its focus on safety of navigation, Trinity House believes
that it can best assist the Committee by providing background
information on its role of providing safe, efficient and cost-effective
aids to navigation for all classes of user. Clearly safety of
navigation has an impact upon opportunities and development prospects
in UK ports as port accessibility and safety of navigation in,
and in the approaches to, our ports are of concern to the port
authorities themselves and to potential users. In addition, the
way in which the costs of provision of Aids to Navigation ("AtoN")
are recovered is relevant in terms of the overall costs of port
access. It seems to Trinity House however that there are aspects
of the Terms of Reference set for the Inquiry by the Committee
which fall outside Trinity House's remit. It is, however, glad
to assist in any way it can and to provide any further information
or expertise in this area if required.
As the Committee will recall, Trinity House
submitted a Memorandum in 1998 to the Committee's Inquiry on the
Future of the UK Shipping Industry. In our view many of the points
made in that Memorandum remain relevant to the present Inquiry.
Trinity House understands that the Committee may wish to address
the particular issue of light dues as a means of payment for the
provision of general aids to navigation by users and, in particular,
the issue of light dues "with reference to international
comparisons" in accordance with its Terms of Reference.
Trinity House was formally constituted under
Royal Charter granted by Henry VIII in 1514. Today, Trinity House
performs its main duties and discharges its functions as:
the General Lighthouse Authority
("GLA") for England, Wales, the Channel Islands and
a charitable organisation for the
safety, welfare and training of mariners;
a deep sea pilotage authority.
Trinity House is led by a Court of Elder Brethren
under the Master, His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh. Responsibility
for the Lighthouse Service is delegated to the Lighthouse Board
which is made up of three executive directors and four non-executive
directors, three of whom are nominated by the Secretary of State
for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, and three senior
officials who are non-voting executive directors.
The Lighthouse Service is financed from light
dues (see below), a system of user charges levied on commercial
shipping. These dues are paid into the General Lighthouse Fund
of which the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport
and the Regions is trustee. The Lighthouse Service's expenses,
together with those of the GLA's for Scotland and Ireland are
met by the Fund. The Lighthouse Service is therefore funded directly
by the user. There is no expense to the UK tax payer. A summary
of the Lighthouse Service is found at ANNEX 1.
Trinity House regards accountability and openness
as being of paramount importance. All classes of user of AtoN
are regularly consulted on their requirements and assist in deciding
on changes to the mix of aids.
Trinity House introduced a Code of Best Practice
for Lighthouse Board Members in November 1996. This is currently
being updated with regard to the provision of effective internal
control as promulgated in the Turnbull Report. The Code includes
commitment to the Principals of Standards in Public Life set out
by the Nolan Committee. In addition the Public Appointments Unit
is actively involved in the process of the Secretary of State's
nomination of three non-executive Directors to the Lighthouse
Board. Openness is maintained by the publishing of Service targets
and objectives in an Annual Review. Other publications are made
available on the Trinity House website. Trinity House is also
compliant with the Combined Code on Corporate Governance arising
from the Turnbull Report, through a system of internal controls
embodied within its Management Systems for Quality.
Trinity House delivers services under the umbrella
of its Management Systems for Quality ("MSQ") which
inter alia embraces
ISO 9001 Standard
The first lighthouse service in the world to
be certified across the whole scope of its operations.
In respect to Trinity House tenders, launches
and marine management systems.
BS 8800 Safety Management
Accredited to RoSPA Level 5.
ISO 14001 Environmental Management
The MSQ is based on the Service's core business
and has been developed to orchestrate the Lighthouse Service's
philosophy of constant improvement.
Trinity House also produces an annual corporate
plan with specific targets and cost projections three years in
Trinity House has contributed to the drafting
of the Port Marine Safety Code in connection with lighthouse authority,
duties, wrecks, Vessel Traffic Services and the inspection role
of the General Lighthouse Authorities (GLAs) in respect of AtoN
provided in local lighthouse authority areas. As a result, all
AtoN provided by harbour authorities/local lighthouse authorities
must be maintained in accordance with the availability and other
criteria laid down by the GLAs, including a requirement for periodic
review. Publication of the Code by the DETR was followed by a
contribution by Trinity House to the draft Guide to Good Practice
with emphasis on safety of navigation issues.
The UK and the Irish Republic are Signatory
States to the International Maritime Organisation SOLAS Convention
1974. Chapter V, Regulation 14 places general responsibility on
contracting governments for the adequate provision of AtoN in
and around each of their respective areas, for the safe navigation
of shipping. The UK Government (DETR) participates in navigation
matters at international level, as a Member State of IMO; this
is co-ordinated in the UK by a Safety of Navigation Committee
(UK-SON) chaired by a senior official of the Maritime Coastguard
Agency and may, for example, involve discussion on changes to
internationally approved Traffic Separation Schemes such as the
one established in the Dover Strait. The GLAs provide advice to
the Government on AtoN matters mainly through a non-statutory
Joint User Consultative Group.
By virtue of Part VIII of the Merchant Shipping
Act 1995, the UK Government has largely been able to delegate
responsibility for AtoN to the GLAs. The superintendence and management
of all lighthouses, buoys and beacons is vested in the GLAs in
and around the coasts of England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, the
Channel Islands and Isle of Man, by virtue of Section 195 of the
Act, subject to certain provisions regarding local AtoN in harbour
The Government however, retains responsibility
under international law for the proper discharge of the UK's international
obligations under SOLAS and is mindful of this when dealing with
requests from the GLAs for financial sanction to AtoN proposals.
The DETR also needs to be satisfied that the powers delegated
to the GLAs are being exercised in a way which meets the UK's
SOLAS obligations. The GLAs are classified as public sector bodies
although the financing of their lighthouse services is by way
of light dues collected from the private sector commercial shipping
industry and paid into the dedicated General Lighthouse Fund.
The GLAs enjoy worldwide respect through the
International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse
Authorities (IALA) and otherwise, due to their long experience,
their standards of service and professionalism. The GLAs have
a tripartite forum for co-operation, the exchange of information
and the co-ordination of common policies to determine where cost-savings
can be made in their respective organisations and in the facilities
provided through joint initiatives. The GLAs have a long-proven
wealth of practical experience amongst those persons who operate
their lighthouse services in all weathers. It is a reliable and
cost-effective maritime service in support of navigational safety
within the present system of non-governmental finance provisions.
Our systems of AtoN are comprehensive and known for efficiency
and high standards amongst those who use the seas in either a
professional or leisure capacity.
All expenses relating to lighthouses, buoys
and beacons maintained by the GLAs, are met out of a self-supporting
fund known as the General Lighthouse Fund ("GLF"). This
fund is maintained by light dues income, the collection and accounting
for which are centralised and controlled from Trinity House, the
GLA having jurisdiction in England and Wales.
The GLF was set up under the Merchant Shipping
(Mercantile Marine Fund) Act 1898 and was initially brought under
the stewardship of the Board of Trade and latterly the Secretary
of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions. Section
205(5) of the 1995 Act enables the Secretary of State to regulate
the scale of charges and determine the basis of liability.
It should be emphasised and clearly understood
that the GLF is a non-profit making fund. The level of dues collected
are regulated to ensure that adequate funds are always available
to meet the sanctioned operating and capital estimates of the
GLAs, with a view to retaining a small reserve to meet contingency
requirements. There is no trading profit ingredient in the system.
Except for certain provisions relating to local
lighthouse authorities, the superintendence and management of
all lighthouses, buoys and beacons throughout Great Britain, Northern
Ireland, the Irish Republic, the Channel Islands, the Isle of
Man, and the adjacent seas and islands are vested in the GLAs,
Trinity House having jurisdiction in England and Wales, the Northern
Lighthouse Board in Scotland and the Isle of Man, and the Commissioners
of Irish Lights/Irish Lights Commission in Ireland.
Light dues are levied on a scale and in accordance
with the rules laid down in regulations made from time to time
by the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the
Regions who is responsible for adjusting the rates of light dues
to maintain the General Lighthouse Fund at a level commensurate
with the approved estimates of expenditure of the GLAs. Charges
are normally reviewed once annually, by the Secretary of State,
for the purpose of maintaining the level of the Fund. Any variation
broadly takes the form of a percentage increase or decrease of
the light dues calculated on the basic scale.
Light dues are payable per voyage in respect
of ships arriving at or departing from ports in the United Kingdom
or the Irish Republic, unless they come within the scope of one
of the statutory exemptions; tugs and fishing vessels of 10 metres
and over and pleasure craft of 20 tons and over are required to
make periodic payments on account of light dues.
The GLAs are empowered to appoint collecting
agents (currently the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers) who
collect the light dues from ships making voyages to and from the
ports. The owners of fishing vessels and tugs are invoiced direct
by Trinity House-on behalf of all three GLAsbased on entries
maintained by the relevant UK Registry. The amounts collected
are remitted into the custody of the DETR who have responsibility
for management of the GLF.
The tonnage of the vessel on which light dues
are payable per voyage is the net tonnage denoted on the International
Tonnage Certificate issued in accordance with the International
Tonnage Convention 1969 or on the national certificate of registry.
Fishing vessels and tugs are rated according to registered length.
For those paying by voyage liability for light dues is limited
to one voyage per month on a rolling month basis. There is a maximum
number of seven liable voyages per year.
Trinity House firmly believes that marine AtoN
services should be user-funded and that the whole spectrum of
marine users should pay as far as is practicable and necessary
to ensure a fair and balanced system.
In our view the light dues charged in the UK
and Irish Republic are a bona fide levy in proportion to the cost
of the general AtoN services provided, somewhat akin to the user
funding systems for aviation and road traffic and the local AtoN
services charged to the ports' users. It is considered fair that
commercial and leisure users should pay for the AtoN services
provided for the common good of marine safety and the prevention
of pollution at sea.
In our view light dues are a justifiable charge
on the users of AtoN; the system also provides the necessary discipline
for more effective user consultation / AtoN review procedures.
Moreover, it produces the correct overall balance between the
perceived and actual AtoN needs of the marine users. Trinity House
seeks to maintain an objective stance by not bowing to political
pressure or relying entirely on the views of only one body or
person purportedly representing the views of the large majority
of a certain class or group of users.
It seems to us likely that lighthouse organisations
which are not funded directly by the user are less inclined to
listen to and reflect the requirements of those using the service.
Equally under publicly funded regimes users are inclined to express
their requirements without due regard to the expense involved.
Public funds are finite and this can be an important factor in
determining the level and quality of the AtoN provided, with potentially
dangerous consequences. It therefore seems there is no simple
way to ensure that decisions are made always for the best where
partial or total state funding of marine AtoN services is involved.
In our view there is much less risk of the quality and range of
AtoN being compromised where there is a direct interface between
the provider and user, particularly when overall control of availability
of funds is exercised by a trustee, as in the UK.
Many countries, including those who have studied
and admired the UK and Irish system are actively looking at the
possibility of implementing at least a part-charge to the user
for the general AtoN services provided.
In fact a significant number of administrations
throughout the world levy light dues. As may be expected, many
of these are British Commonwealth countries. Similar systems have
only recently been implemented in Canada and Australia. Most countries
levying light dues aim only to recover a proportion of their expenditure
on AtoN. It has been said that the problem of cost recovery for
AtoN remains difficult since there are usually more ships passing
along the coastline than going to port. These ships cannot be
charged for using marine AtoN and facilities unless there is a
balanced system of user funding throughout the region. One of
the strengths of the European Union's Communication of a Common
Policy on Safe Seas (COM(93)66 final) is that it recognises the
advantages of a Pan-European user funding mechanism for the provision
of AtoN. It is to be regretted that this initiative remains undeveloped
and appears of relatively low priority in the Commission's Green
Paper on Sea Ports and Maritime Infrastructure (COM(97)678 final)
and the recently published Commission Communication "Reinforcing
Quality Services in Sea Ports: A Key for European Transport"
and the accompanying proposal for a directive on Market Access
to Port Services (COM (2001) 35 final).
We respectfully draw the Committee's attention
to Table C at Annex 3 to the GLA's Marine Navigation Plan period
This provides a comparative profile of the Union Member States
Aids to Navigation Arrangements and their related funding.
The DETR's (then DoT) Report on Liner Shipping
and Freight Rates between the UK and Northern Europe in 1986 concluded
that only one-seventh of the difference in cost between UK and
Continental Ports was attributable to light dues and that the
other six-sevenths or 85 per cent was due, inter alia, to operating
inefficiency at that time and foreign port subsidies. It is clear
therefore that other considerations carry greater weight than
light dues where a shipowner has a choice of a UK or a Continental
Port at which to discharge. Furthermore it should be noted that
whilst the rate of light dues has not increased since 1993 (and
was in fact reduced in 1997 by 4.6 per cent), last year in particular
saw a significant increase in larger vessels visiting UK ports
with a commensurate increase in light dues revenue. It does not
therefore appear that light dues, in isolation, operate as a deterrent
to the use or potential use of ports by ship operators.
Another "distortion factor" may be
seen to arise out of the fact that not all users pay for the general
AtoN service provided by the Corporation-in particular leisure
craft users are mainly exempt. Trinity House believes that this
anomaly should be addressed as soon as a cost-effective method
of collection can be devised and made enforceable.
As mentioned above Trinity House considers user
consultation to be of the utmost importance in delivering a service
which meets the navigational requirements of users. The close
contact developed between provider and user is, in our view, one
of the strengths of the "user pays" system. The shipowners
are represented directly on the Lighthouse Finance Committee through
the Lights Advisory Committee (LAC) which provides advice to the
Secretary of State on lighthouse matters from the point of view
of the marine users. However, the LAC may not be regarded as truly
representative of the bulk of shipping in UK waters which is predominantly
foreign flag; government shipping and leisure craft are also outwith
the scope of the LAC and are consulted separately via direct consultation
initiated by the GLAs.
The full scope of financial and user consultation
carried out by Trinity House is described and illustrated at Annex
As a founder member, Trinity House has made
valuable contributions to IALA, particularly in regard to the
work of the technical committees on radionavigation, operations,
engineering, Automatic Identification Systems and Vessel Traffic
Services (VTS). In turn, IALA provides important recommendations
and guidelines for use by the International Maritime Organization.
Trinity House regards the principal of subsidiarity
as being of the utmost importance in the better provision and
performance of AtoN services by EU Member States; any EU interface
must respect the need for diversity in handling regional circumstances,
particularly in the ports industry.
Insofar as the efficient and cost-effective
provision of AtoN services is concerned, the Corporation believe
user-funding is of fundamental importance. The light dues system
in the UK and the Irish Republic, combined with the active examples
of effective inter-GLA co-operation, lend weight to the subsidiarity
principle in dealing with AtoN matters. Common policies can be
made to work through consultation with, and co-operation between,
Member States; this will ensure the required feedback and necessary
action concerning special needs due to particular regional circumstances.
A considerate amount of co-operation and consultation
towards the formulation of common marine AtoN policies is already
taking place through IALA. Trinity House believe this should be
allowed to continue and develop with the direct input from the
administrations of EU Member States to IMO and the EU as necessary.
In addition, the EU should not be allowed to spend money unnecessarily
and work in isolation where great efforts are already being made
towards the development of a worldwide navigation system through
IMO. Where some benefit exists for the common good of the Union
and can be better achieved by the EU in consultation with Member
States, then Trinity House will be prepared to lend the full weight
of their experience and expertise to assist the effort, provided
that democracy and diversity are guaranteed in working toward
any common solution.
P B Rowe
12 March 2001
37 The Marine Navigation Plan Period to 2015 is a
plan devised by the GLAs to ensure the ongoing provision of a
satisfactory, economical and reliable AtoN service to meet the
changing requirements of all classes of mariners in the waters
of the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic. The plan is kept
under review and the GLAs will give timely notification of any
changes to the maritime community and relevant institutions. Back