Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60-65)
MR WOLFGANG ELSNER
WEDNESDAY 24 APRIL 2002
60. It is very strange to think that you are seeking to find a common denominator when the common denominator is so limited. You are not concerned with equal treatment in finance, you are not concerned with equal treatment in training, you are not concerned with any other aspect except this one narrow thing, although you must know that within this country, within the United Kingdom, it is a totally artificial and really unworkable suggestion.
(Mr Elsner) I am not sure whether it is unworkable. People who do not like certain initiatives will always say it is unworkable.
61. Frequently because they are correct.
(Mr Elsner) That may well be, or may not be the case. If we had brought forward a proposal on training methods for stevedoring companies, the opposition would have been just as vociferous. The answer would have been, "We don't need it because it doesn't add anything and because every port will have to bear its responsibility".
62. Are you surprised at the bad reaction you are getting to the proposed Directive?
(Mr Elsner) Do you mean UK reaction or general?
63. UK; yes.
(Mr Elsner) We have parts of the UK industry who are opposed to it, who are very loudly and vociferously opposed to it. We have other sectors of the UK industry who are not opposed to it like the shipping companies, like the exporters and importers, that is the clients of the ports. I am not necessarily surprised. There are many different reasons why I think the opposition is as vociferous as it is. I hope I have answered your question.
64. Is it lack of clarity in the Directive or because of the measures you intend to pursue?
(Mr Elsner) No; the principle. It is not the clarity. If we had drafted it in such a way that de facto a substantial number, not all, but a substantial number of the ports which I know in the UK would be effectively excluded, and that is the way we have done it, then if one is opposed to it, it cannot be because of that, it has to be for different reasons, but no doubt you will be told why later on today. The reaction of other ports has been similarly vociferous against the proposal. Many other ports agree with the proposal because it gives them a tool with which they can organise their operations and introduce rules which hitherto they have not had. Of course other ports which are state monopolies are opposed to this; of course they say we will destroy the very fabric of a state monopoly port. No, they do not like it. They do not like it; they like it as little as other ports like it. There is a very unusual situation in that you have a substantial body of ports which are completely opposed to this and you have a very substantial body of ports in other countries which, again, for a multitude of reasons, is very much in favour of what we are proposing.
65. Does that not give you pause and make you wonder whether perhaps you have not got it wrong?
(Mr Elsner) Some like it and some do not like it. I do not want to say they are evenly balanced, because you enter into a silly numbers game, but I think I am right in saying that a very substantial number of ports in Member States and that includes the States themselves is very much in favour of an approach like this because they would like to have some guidance as to how to organise the whole market of port services. They want to move away from the traditional behind-closed-door dealings and come into the open. If you have some guidance on how to do it, it is easier for them to do it than if they have to re-invent the wheel.
Chairman: Thank you, Mr Elsner, you have been most polite and fluent and you have certainly enlightened us. Thank you very much.