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REVIEW OF MUNICIPAL PORTS

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Local authorities should consider setting up a municipal harbour management committee within existing council struc...
Local authorities should consider setting up a municipal harbour management committee within existing council structures, including external stakeholders with relevant expertise.

Shipping minister Stephen Ladyman today launched the government's ports policy review and invited responses on a range of broad strategic issues. He also announced the outcome of a review of the management of ports in local authority ownership in England and Wales.

Among the most important themes that the ports policy review sets out for consultation are:

- the national, regional and local policy dimensions

- expected capacity requirements at national level for different types of cargo

- inland and coastal connections by road, rail and water

- environmental issues

- competition at national and international level

- governance and accountability in a mixed-ownership sector

- making the most of smaller ports

- whether there is scope for improving ports planning procedures

Dr Ladyman said:

'International trade in goods accounts for nearly 30% of our GDP, and ports are overwhelmingly the gateways to the global distribution network. They are crucial to our success in a global economy. And ports have wider impacts upon our economy, society and environment, which government has to address.

'The ports policy review which I'm launching today should inform, and set the right limits for, future government involvement in what is already a thriving, largely commercial sector.'

The views of stakeholders and of other interested parties are being sought over the coming three months. The department will then consider the responses to this consultation in detail and work with the Welsh Assembly Government, DRD Northern Ireland and other departments towards a revised policy framework for ports in the first half of 2007.

Speaking about the review of municipal ports in England and Wales Dr Ladyman said:

'We believe that within the current framework for decision-making in local government there is scope for more responsive and dynamic management of municipal ports. In reviewing the sector, the department has worked closely with DCLG, the Welsh Assembly, local authorities and the municipal ports sector to identify effective ways of working and thereby help local authorities in their stewardship of the ports which they own.

'In the report published today, the department and DCLG have together developed recommendations which, where they are appropriate to the individual local authority and port, can deliver real improvements in the management and performance of ports.'

Notes

A Ports Policy Review (PPR)

1. The PPR covers England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is being taken forward by the Department in association with the Welsh National Government and DRD Northern Ireland, as well as other interested departments including the DEFRA, DTI and DCLG (the former ODPM).

2. Policy on Scottish ports is largely devolved, and is being taken forward under the aegis of the Scottish Executive's National Transport Strategy.

3. To help inform consideration of the broad strategic issues set out in the PPR, the Department commissioned the consultants MDS Transmodal to produce two reports:

(1) UK Port Demand Forecasts to 2030, covering all major cargo sectors; These demand forecasts highlight lift-on lift-off (lo-lo) containers, roll-on roll-off (ro-ro) lorries and liquefied natural gas (LNG) as areas where substantial growth is to be expected in the period up to 2030. Some other cargo sectors are also expected to experience substantial localized growth.

and, with narrower focus,

(2) a Container Port Transhipment Study.

This study looks at the determinants and consequences of the mix between delivery of lo-lo containers by large deep-sea vessels, and by smaller ships transhipping cargo from large hub ports (such as Rotterdam, Antwerp or Hamburg), mainly on the continent of Europe.

4. Some 95% of our international trade, by tonnage, arrives by sea.

The bulk of the PPR (including the MDS reports) is concerned with

cargo. On the passenger side, we note the contrasting trends in,

and prospects for, the ferry and cruise markets.

B Review of municipal ports

5. There are three categories of port ownership in the UK: company ports, 'trust ports' (governed by boards with varying constitutions) and local authority-owned or municipal ports. The department conducted a review of municipal ports around England and Wales following a commitment in Modern Ports, published in November 2002.

The report published today, Opportunities for ports in local authority ownership, reviews municipal ports' management structures and practices to ensure that municipal ports are playing a full and accountable part in the local and regional economy.

6. There are 65 municipal ports in England and Wales(1) that are operated as departments of the owning authorities and are subject to local government rules and financing requirements. The sector is not large in traffic terms (only 14% of total traffic) but small ports, if properly managed, have the opportunity to be significant economic drivers in regional and local economies.

7. At all stages the department has consulted with ODPM/DCLG, the Welsh Assembly, the British Ports Association and the municipal ports group itself.

8. The terms of reference for the review were:

- to obtain an overview of the municipal ports sector and its operation - benchmarking their performance and accountability against the trust and private sector.

- to identify benefits and constraints resulting from municipal ownership and their impact on accountability, development and effective operation of their ports.

- to assess the impact of best value, modernising local government, and local government finance initiatives on municipal ports.

- to examine realistic options for the future role and status of municipal ports.

9. The review's main recommendation is that the local authorities consider setting up a municipal harbour management committee within existing council structures, including external stakeholders with relevant expertise.

10. The process of participating in the review has already encouraged a significant number of owning authorities to grasp the nettle and take positive steps to improve both governance and the economic position of their ports. Some have already instigated their own reviews; for example, Whitstable, Workington, Salcombe, and Ilfracombe are already implementing our suggestions for improvement.

11. To access the ports policy review and the municipal ports review, see here.

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