Unfair competition claim for Felixstowe

ACTION is needed to deal with the "unfair advantages" which European ports have over British container terminals such as Felixstowe.While the UK ports industry is largely privatised and relies on private investment for vital developments, its continental competitors operate differently, mostly state-owned and supported by state subsidies.

ACTION is needed to deal with the "unfair advantages" which European ports have over British container terminals such as Felixstowe.

While the UK ports industry is largely privatised and relies on private investment for vital developments, its continental competitors operate differently, mostly state-owned and supported by state subsidies.

Conservative Euro MP for the East of England, Geoffrey Van Orden said moves were needed to ensure there was "a level playing field" and that Felixstowe and Harwich were able to compete on fair terms.

"There should be more transparency in terms of state funding for port operations," said Mr Van Orden.


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"The structure of the British (ports) industry is rather different to that in the rest of the EU. We want a level playing field and there is no doubt that some of the European ports in direct competition with our ports have an unfair advantage."

Speaking to Haven Gateway shipping industry representatives during a lunch at Hintlesham Hall, Mr Van Orden also criticised the controversial Ports Services Directive, recently thrown out by the European Parliament, as "red tape masquerading in the guise of liberalisation".

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He voted against the directive, which was narrowly defeated at a final vote – 229 MEPs voting against, and 209 in favour.

If the directive had become law, it would have threatened hundreds of portworkers' jobs at Felixstowe and Ipswich, forcing ports to open many internal services to competition, including cargo handling, and even allowing ships' crews to unload vessels.

At the lunch, Haven Gateway Partnership chairman George Courtauld and other HGP representatives took the opportunity to raise a number of issues with Mr Van Orden, a member of the EU's regional policy and transport committee.

Mr Courtauld said: "One of our really big priorities is infrastructure. It is pointless finding the business and then being unable to get your goods in or out of the region. The real bottleneck is the F2N (Felixstowe to Nuneaton) rail route which has got to be improved.

"Our roads need investment too. More than 1.5 million passengers pass through the Haven Gateway each year, mainly through Harwich, and they go on the A120. In many cases, an incident on this (single carriageway) road can bung it up for the whole day."

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