Suffolk: Port progression as public meets private

A decision to outsource the modernisation of IT systems at the Port of Felixstowe is paying off for council bosses.

Suffolk Coastal paid private consultants more than �64,000 in three months for overseeing the implementation of an online border inspection scheme.

But it has proved money well spent for the port authority, which claims the new system has improved efficiency, generated income and come at no expense to the taxpayer.

Foresight Consulting (UK) Ltd received �64,176.71 during December, January and February, and a total of �250,000 since being appointed in November 2008, to help manage the Port Health Interactive Live Information System (PHILIS).

The system - used in the monitoring of food imports and hygiene requirements at Felixstowe - was created by the council at a cost of �1m and has since been sold to two other port health teams in the UK.

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Phil Gore, head of environmental services and port health, said: “As a small district council, we did not have the project management skills that Foresight has provided and which have been vital in our success to date.

“PHILIS has been funded from the income generated by the council’s port health service, as importers have to pay to have their food stuff inspected.

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“Without PHILIS, the 50 strong port health team would have needed five more staff to meet the demands caused by increasing food imports and new safety rules.”

The port health team is legally required to carry out food inspections in line with UK and European standards. And port expansion should see an increase to 4.7 million containers a year going through the docks by 2020.

Suffolk Coastal believes PHILIS has already made food import monitoring easier for all concerned.

Mr Gore added: “With the help of Foresight, this council has successfully delivered a system that is much cheaper than any of the alternative solutions, that has made the port health team at Felixstowe much more efficient, that has made food importing much easier for businesses, has made Felixstowe an even more attractive port for importers, and is creating additional income as other ports buy our PHILIS success story.

“All of this could not have been achieved as quickly, efficiently and effectively if the council had not recognised that it needed to invest in outside expertise from Foresight to help turn the concept of PHILIS into a massive success story.”

Between September 2009 and March 2010 the port carried out 8951 identity checks. Last year 153 unsatisfactory consignments were removed from the food chain.

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