PD Ports is calling on retailers and manufacturers as well as the wider logistics community to voice their opposition to the Governments proposed hike in light dues which will add significantly to the annual costs of goods passing through UK ports.
Light dues are the charges that ships using UK ports pay towards the cost of running the three lighthouse authorities in the UK and Ireland, and the Department for Transport says an increase is needed to cover a shortfall in annual revenue.
Martyn Pellew, Group Development Director, PD Ports, says the increase of up to 67% for some ships cannot be absorbed by an industry already operating to very tight profit margins, so the costs will inevitably have to be passed on, eventually as far as end-users.
In these difficult economic times it is a real kick in the teeth for the UK Government to impose such a significant hike in costs, he says. And coming on top of the recent decision to backdate business rates bills, it seems the Government is trying to kill off the ports industry altogether. PD Ports estimates that the ships using its Teesport facilities in North East England will be paying an extra 4m a year in total. The fee is calculated according to the gross tonnage* of the ship and number of calls per year so the increase starts at 17% but will increase to 67% for some of the larger ships.
We have invested heavily in new facilities at the port to attract more ships to come here, says Mr Pellew. And both Tesco and Asda have built major distribution centres at the port under our portcentric business strategy. Thousands of new jobs are being brought into the area because of the port. The UK maritime industry is concerned that ships will bypass the UK altogether and call at ports on the Continent, where no light dues are charged. An estimated 500,000 jobs in the UK are dependent on the maritime services, and it contributes 25bn to GDP.**
The Government has published a consultation document*** and is calling for comments by 18th May 2009. Mr Pellew is urging exporters, importers, business bodies, consumer groups and others concerned about the viability and competitiveness of the UK ports industry to approach their local MPs and/or make comments directly via the DfT website.
*Gross Tonnage is calculated based on "the moulded volume of all enclosed spaces of the ship" and is used to determine things such as a ship's manning regulations, safety rules, registration fees and port dues
** Oxford Economic study commissioned by One Voice, which was set up in 2008 by the Baltic Exchange, British Ports Association, Chamber of Shipping, Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers, Maritime London and the UK Major Ports Group.
***The consultation document and the associated impact assessment can be found at www.dft.gov.uk/consultations/open/lightduesamendment/