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American Shipper

U.K. ports planning ?too slow and expensive?

U.K. ports planning ôtoo slow and expensiveö

The United Kingdom's House of Parliament Transport Committee today published its review of the ports industry in England and Wales, identifying that the planning system is 'too slow and expensive' and that the ports should be able to compete on an equal footing with their European rivals.

   The inquiry was started in July last year, coming after a rash of sales of British shipping-related companies, most notably the acquisition of P&O Ports by Dubai Ports World.

   'The ports industry needs a national strategy that recognizes the regional context and looks to balance national trade requirements with the local imperatives of regeneration, employment and environmental protection,' the committee said in its conclusion.

   'This strategy must encompass a comprehensive freight distribution plan that will ensure sustainable, nationwide infrastructure for the long term. If it does not, it makes no difference where 'the market' decides to develop port terminals, as goods will remain stuck on congested roads or blocked by dilapidated canals and railways.

   'It should also be the role of government to ensure that the U.K. economy is not disadvantaged by an unequal application of European law. The government needs to get tough on those of our neighbors — and direct competitors — who flout environmental and trade legislation.

   'We applaud the moves the industry has made to work within the environmental framework and we recognize how frustrating it has been at times. EU law has not, however, proven the only frustration and we hope that recent legislation will help simplify the cumbersome and costly planning process. We expect, too, to see real progress in the fight to improve the safety of our ports' workers by providing the statutory inspection and safety regime that they deserve,' the Committee said.

      The Freight Transport Association, which represents British shippers and logistics companies, welcomed the findings of the report, reiterating that European port projects receive far quicker decisions than in the United Kingdom.

   'If the U.K.'s ports lack the ability to expand capacity they will be superseded by larger ports in Europe, and the U.K. will lose 'port of call' status,” said Christopher Snelling, the FTA's head of rail freight and global supply chain policy.

   'This would mean that large containerships from China would dock at ports such as Rotterdam, and the U.K. would receive a feeder service from there. This would add more costs, delays and uncertainty to the delivery of all sea-going goods to the U.K.'

   The British government still has to fully approve a number of long awaited port projects including the London Gateway project on the site of a former oil refinery at Shell Haven in Thurrock, Essex, which DP World inherited with the purchase of P&O Ports.

   The committee's report is available at:

http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/transport_committee.cfm.

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