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UK Shipping Minister Outlines Future Port Plans

by Robin Pilgrim,, London

23 July 2007

The UK's Shipping Minister, Jim Fitzpatrick on Thursday committed the Government to maintaining its 'light touch' approach to the regulation of ports in England and Wales, and announced a strengthening of the Government's ports policy framework.

He also announced the publication of an Interim Report setting out the findings so far of the Government's Ports Policy Review (PPR), which was launched in May 2006.

The Interim Report outlined specific actions on issues such as demand forecasting, the future of trust ports, Master Plans and the safeguarding of land for port operations where that is appropriate.

In addition, it looked forward to further improvements through the future establishment of the Marine Management Organization and Infrastructure Planning Commission, which the Government has announced in two recent White Papers.

More than 90% of the UK's visible foreign trade passes through sea-ports (a total of almost 600 million tonnes each year), and there are three main ownership categories for civilian ports: companies, which account for the majority of commercial activity; municipal ports run directly by local authorities; and trust ports, independent statutory bodies, which account for around 30% of tonnage throughput.

Although the Ports Policy Review will not be completed until later this year, Mr Fitzpatrick explained that the Government is already in a position to spell out a number of measures to promote greater transparency, stronger environmental performance and more co-operation in strategic planning.

He revealed that:

"Central to our approach is our view that commercial port operators are best-placed to make decisions about where and when to invest. We do not propose any substantial change in the operating and regulatory framework for ports. But, recognising the vital importance of ports large and small to national, regional and local economies, it is the Government's responsibility to create the conditions in which investment is encouraged and sustainability is ensured."

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