16 SEP 2011

DPPT Supportive of Ferry Companies in public inquiry

16th September 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Fight between the Dover Harbour Board and the Ferry Companies could have been avoided says the Dover People's Port Trust

The Dover People's Port Trust (DPPT) notes with regret the ongoing hearings into alleged unfair tariff increases which have been brought by the ferry companies against the Dover Harbour Board (DHB).

They appear to reflect a serious breakdown in the relationship between DHB and its principal customers which DPPT believes

- operates against the long term interests of the port and its development as a business,

- reflects a fundamental failure by DHB to operate in the interests of its stakeholders, and

- is only likely to be exacerbated if the proposals currently being advanced by DHB to privatise the Port are accepted by the Department for Transportation (DfT).

The DPPT notes that this breakdown in the relationship between the port and its principal customers could never occur under the proposal it has currently made to the DfT.

This involves a structure designed to provide certainty, transparency and accountability over fixing the tariffs levied for the use of the port, following consultation with both management, employees, users and all other interested parties.

It is achieved through the appointment of a suitably qualified independent regulator, charged with setting tariffs, performance targets and investment programmes for each 5 year period after appropriate consultation and the investigation of industry comparables. This incorporates a structure specifically designed to settle any disagreements between the management and their customers in an efficient and accountable fashion.

DPPT can entirely understand the frustration and anger of the ferry companies who agreed one off tariff increases some years ago to help fund the development of a new ferry terminal, only to find that the extra cash generated, would not be used for this purpose. Instead, they were informed that the funds required would be raised via DHB seeking a possible sale and raising the funds through the capital markets

Since DHB's plan to seek a sale of the port has been announced and despite spending huge sums of public money to generate support, it has been vigorously opposed by almost all major stakeholders and rejected outright by the people of Dover Town.

This is all against a backdrop of declining traffic numbers and vessel calls whilst DHB has increased tariffs at above inflation rates, to the detriment of their major users.

Mr Neil Wiggins, Chairman of the Dover People's Port Trust, commented: "We are becoming increasingly frustrated by the actions taken by the management of Dover Harbour Board. In our opinion, the Port of Dover should serve the needs of its customers and the current dispute with the ferry companies is to the detriment of the Port's commercial operations and the community as a whole. DHB is rather focussing on selling itself off, which will not serve the needs of its major customers or the people of Dover. It is time that DHB and other opinion formers put their backing behind the DPPT's proposal to put the ownership of the Port firmly in the hands of the community. In so doing, this will serve the interests of all stakeholders including the ferry companies."

Ends

For further information, please contact:

Neil Wiggins, Chairman of the Dover People's Port Trust

Tel: 00 44 (0) 7340 100740

Simon Robinson, Farm Street Communications

Tel: 00 44 (0) 7763 340107

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