Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Rising regulation, red tape puts ports at risk: UK Major Ports Group

BRITISH ports are weighed down with regulation and taxes that could "seriously disrupt business" and put future investment "at risk", says UK Major Ports Group (UKMPG) chairman Charles Hammond.

"We will not be able to continue to attract this investment in a competitive international financial market if as an industry we are burdened with excessive regulation," said the industry lobby executive in a recent speech.

"The UK government talks a good game. We have had schemes to cut red tape and lots of initiatives to speed up planning decisions. Despite all the fine words, it continues to take much longer than they should," he said.

"We continue to face new regulation which discriminates against ports. There is the Carbon Reduction Commitment - an energy tax that particularly penalises ports and businesses on port estates." Mr Hammond said.

He also noted that British ports contributed in a major way to carbon reduction through partnerships with the offshore wind and biomass sectors, greater use of rail freight and promoting short sea shipping.

Mr Hammond also said ports would be hobbled if proposals for marine conservation zones went into effect, some of which "could seriously disrupt business at ports and put future investment at risk".

The UKMPG chairman urged the finance and energy ministers to listen to the industry and find "a simpler and less discriminatory alternatives"

Mr Hammond, also CEO of Forth Ports, said he hoped the Department for Transport (DfT), would take rapid action on a decision about the privatisation of the Port of Dover.

He noted that the new minister of the Department for Transport (DfT), Patrick McLoughlin, had made a name forwarding legislation on port privatisation in the early 1990s and looked forward to the same spirit of determination being applied again.

"That legislation enabled the port of Dover to come forward with privatisation proposals some three years ago. We hope that the new ministerial team will move quickly to take decisions, end what has been a prolonged period of uncertainty and give a positive lead to other commercial trust ports in England and Wales, which are looking at ways of bringing in private finance," he said.

By: Charles Hammond
Chair's Speech at UK Major Ports Group Reception
21 November 2012

The improvements in productivity have been coupled with real progress on safety. Port accident rates have halved over the last 10 years and that safety improvement is continuing.

  • And the subject of regulation brings me finally to the subject of the EU. We had thought that after 2 botched attempts to introduce regulation into the operation of port services, the Commission had sensibly decided to leave well alone and concentrate on properly applying the general rules of the EU Treaty to ports. It is surely unacceptable that subsidy regimes vary so widely so that northern continental ports we compete with benefit from generous subsidy while UK ports do not.
  • However the Commission are known to be looking at port service regulation again despite a recent survey which showed that the vast majority of port users are well satisfied with the service they receive and are not seeking change. Our message to Brussels remains simple - concentrate on your existing role to ensure a level playing field and do not put productivity and investment at risk by introducing complicated and unnecessary new bureaucracy. We will resist and challenge any form of further interference and bureaucracy from Europe.

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