Shipping firms must navigate extra costs at Humber ports
SHIPPING firms are facing a new year double whammy at the Humber ports, after the cost for pilotage, boarding, landing and conservancy was increased, alongside a surcharge for pilotage to cover a mounting pension fund deficit.
For large vessels requiring expert assistance navigating the estuary to reach berths at Grimsby and Immingham, costs have increased 7.6 per cent.
A retail price index linked rise of 2.6 per cent from competent harbour authority Associated British Ports (ABP) sits alongside the 5 per cent surcharge to address a pension shortfall of more than £186-million. Both have been applied nationally, and not decided upon locally. The latter, which is likely to rise in future, is said to be a direct consequence of the financial recovery plan instigated by the independent trustees of the Pilots National Pension Fund (PNPF).
An ABP spokesperson said: "ABP, from 2013 onwards, will incur substantial additional costs related to the provision of pilotage services. Like many other competent harbour authorities around the UK, ABP has introduced a surcharge at its ports to partially reflect the burden the PNPF charges impose on the costs of pilotage services."
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The Pilots National Pension Fund is a defined benefit pension scheme whose members are current and former pilots.
As with most pension schemes, the funding position has worsened significantly in recent years due to poorly performing investments and the trustees were previously unable to introduce a recovery plan because it was unclear who would be liable for the growing deficit.
Court directions were sought and the trustees were subsequently granted powers to levy deficit contributions on the majority of competent harbour authorities in the UK. The trustees then advised these harbour authorities of their share of the deficit liability in the scheme, which as at December 31 2010, stood at £186.6-million, and also announced that increased contributions to fund this deficit would be required from January 1, 2013.
The spokesperson added: "ABP understand the impact that this surcharge will have on UK port users and, consequently, at ABP operated facilities we have elected to introduce the surcharge on a staged basis in order to mitigate this impact as much as possible. We are aware that a number of other pilotage providers are levying similar or higher surcharges."
A fleet of pilot vessels operate in the Humber, with skilled mariners dispatched from the ports to board the cargo-carrying ships and guide them in. By tonnage, the Port of Grimsby and Immingham remains the UK's largest.