Mr Platten focused on the broad challenges facing the industry, but explained that a system must be found to mediate disputes between shipping companies and port operators over the cost of doing business.
He said: “Shipowners, just like commercial ports, are in business to make money – and expect to negotiate with their suppliers in order to secure a good service at a competitive price. Some UK ports are effective monopolies – and I reveal no confidences when I say that there are concerns that this results in them treating shipowners as captive customers.
The charges levied by ports comprise a significant element of UK shipping’s cost base. And, as we look ahead to the forthcoming competitiveness review, we will be looking at all elements of that cost base. We believe in a free market, and you won’t hear us arguing for controlled prices – but we have little confidence in the statutory safeguard against excessive charges. We believe in customer choice.
But, in parts of the ports industry, it doesn’t exist – and, realistically, it is never going to. And in those circumstances, your customers need protection. Scotland has taken the first steps towards an arbitration process. But this process needs to have teeth, and it must be implemented across the whole of the UK.”
Click to read Guy Platten’s speech in full: Guy Platten speech