The conference was the major set-piece event at the end of the European Commission’s consultation on a future EU policy for ports. It drew together the findings of the thematic workshops organised by the Commission and compared the views of stakeholders on outstanding issues of discussion.
EU Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot used the event to confirm that the EU port policy would be issued in October 2007. He emphasised the effect of congestion in ports and the importance of inland transport connections for ports. The Commissioner said that a range of tools would be developed to simplify port operations and optimise hinterland connections.
The FTA’s rail freight and global supply chain service manager, Chris MacRae, said, “We welcome the Commissioner focusing on congestion and hinterland connections as a key issue for ports policy. Shippers in the UK have been experiencing worsening problems associated with port congestion. Our major container ports are increasingly congested and are introducing measures such as vehicle booking systems, which add to the costs for the haulier and therefore our shipper members, to deal with their capacity issues.
“Additionally, at Felixstowe an infrastructure ‘surcharge’ has been introduced by the port to fund the improvements to its rail connection, which the UK Government is making the port pay for as a condition of the planning consent for its expansion.
“The FTA is calling on the EU to use its ports policy to call for member state governments to fund onward transport infrastructure for ports – this has always been the role that governments have fulfilled, and only recently has the UK Government let down British business by adding the costs of major rail and road upgrades to port development.”