Felixstowe/Harwich: Call for safety checks on shipping movements to be doubled

Harwich Harbour.

Harwich Harbour. - Credit: Archant

CALLS have been made today for safety checks on shipping movements at ports to be doubled.

The Transport Committee is concerned about safety in harbours after hearing evidence that marine pilots, who guide ships in and out of ports, do not feel the Department for Transport understands their concerns and the requirements of their work.

Committee chairman, MP Louise Ellman said: “Overall, UK ports have a good safety record but where problems occur there can be terrible consequences in terms of loss of life, pollution and damage to property.

“We cannot tell to what extent ports follow Government guidance on port safety because most fail to confirm to Government that they comply with the guidance.

“There are also few publicly available statistics about accidents and near-misses in ports. This has to change.”


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Harwich Haven Authority, the pilotage authority for Harwich harbour, including the routes in and out of the Port of Felixstowe, Britain’s busiest container port, handles around 7,400 vessels a year.

The authority is hugely proud of its safety record and always publishes statistics. In 2011 – the latest year for which data is available – there were no serious incidents involving ships and just three minor accidents where there was little or no risk to personnel or the environment.

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In 2010, there were no major incidents and nine minor ones.

The Transport Committee is calling for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to double its safety inspections to eight a year, and ports to be required to publish statistics on accidents and near-misses.

Stephen Bracewell, chief executive of Harwich Haven Authority, said safety was very much at the top of the agenda for harbours and ports, adhering closely to the marine safety code, and pilotage was as important as other activities when it came to ensuring vessels and personnel were operating in a safe environment.

He felt it could take a decade to put in place statutory rules which suited all the different types and sizes of harbours around the country and the government already had the option of removing a harbour’s operating licence if there were problems or major breaches of safety.

He said: “I think such work is totally unnecessary as we have an excellent code of practice. We are very proud that we were part of the working group which developed the code, which has high standards and has been embraced as a world leading document.”

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