Tees faces huge lighthouse bill

A YAWNING £21m shortfall in the £89m needed to run Britain’s lighthouses this year could land Teesport users with a £4m bill if a proposal to raise taxes succeed

A YAWNING £21m shortfall in the £89m needed to run Britain’s lighthouses this year could land Teesport users with a £4m bill if a proposal to raise taxes succeed

Operator PD Ports said the news was a “kick in the teeth” for the industry.

“Coming on top of the recent decision to backdate business rates bills, it seems the Government is trying to kill off the ports industry altogether,” said PD Ports’ group development director Martyn Pellew.

If adopted, the new light dues look likely to disproportionately affect terminals handling the deep sea container ships on which Teesport’s future increasingly depends. Its £300m Northern Gateway project is specifically designed to increase volumes of these ships, which it fears could use cheaper continental berths. Both Tesco, which opens a distribution centre this year, and Asda have been attracted by the ports’ expansion plans.

Mr Pellew called on retailers and manufacturers, and logistics operators to oppose the plans.

Mr Pellew said the increase - of up to 67% for some ships - could not be absorbed by an industry already operating to very tight profit margins. The costs would have to be passed on.

“In these difficult economic times it is a real kick in the teeth for the UK Government to impose such a significant hike,” he said.

PD Ports estimated that shipping lines using its Teesport facilities would have to stump up an extra 17-67% or £4m in total - a year, based on fees calculated on gross tonnage and the number of calls made per year.

Responses to the Department of Transport consultation closes on May 18. Comments can be made via the DfT website at www.dft.gov.uk/consultations/ open/lightduesamendment/

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