Increase in UK Light Dues
10 June 2009
We are therefore proposing a lesser increase in light dues from 35p to 39p per nrt from 1 July 2009 and putting off a further increase from 39 to 43p per nrt until 1 April 2010.
Even after the second increase, the light dues rate of 43p per nrt will be no higher than it was at its peak 16 years ago, and in real terms 32% lower. The two stage changes should allow everyone to plan ahead with more certainty about next year. We have looked again at how the burden is spread between different types of shipping. Our original proposal was to increase the tonnage cap (the maximum cargo capacity up to which the light dues rate applies) from 35,000 to 50,000 nrt so that the very biggest ships would pay more. This is fair given the continuing trend towards fewer, bigger vessels in the container and bulk sector.
In recognition of the exceptionally difficult economic climate this sector is facing this year, we have however decided to reduce and defer that increase, so that the tonnage cap will rise to 40,000 nrt from 1 April 2010. We believe that the increase in the voyage cap to 9 per year from 1 July 2009 is still appropriate.
We believe these changes strike a fair balance between the interests of safety and the protection of commerce. We continue to require the GLAs to identify additional savings and efficiencies. It is, however, clear from the consultation that feelings about the funding arrangements for Irish Lights are strong. We have taken the opportunity of this consultation period to consider the delivery and development of aids to navigation in the two countries. Although the present shortfall in funding was accentuated by the current exchange rate between the pound and euro, the cross subsidy of Irish Lights from the GLF under arrangements agreed between the two governments in 1985 was not the cause of the shortfall. UK and Irish Transport Ministers have reconsidered the arrangements, which predate the foundation of the Irish State and constitute an example of longstanding British-Irish and North-South co-operation serving the mutual interests of the communities. On the basis of a recent study, we have agreed to alter the formula for apportioning Irish costs on a North-South basis. The existing 30/70 apportionment is to be replaced by 15/85 with effect from the current year (2009-10). We also agreed on the need for an overall assessment of the provision of the integrated aids to navigation service to all regions in the UK and Ireland. An evaluation is to be undertaken which will consider all aspects of delivery, including options for continuing increases in efficiency, potential improvements in structure and the overall arrangements for financing. We expressed our support for the valuable work carried out by the service in both countries but stressed that we are anxious that optimum cost-effective use should be made of the resources available in maintaining safe navigation in UK and Irish waters. In conclusion, in order to ensure that the GLAs have sufficient funds to enable them to carry out their statutory duties in respect of maritime safety and to protect the commitments of the GLF, including the pension contributions of GLA staff, it is necessary to increase light dues. Having considered all the representations I believe that it is in the interests of all parties to implement a two-stage increase in light dues that will avoid some of the immediate impact on the shipping industry at a time when they are suffering from the economic recession and downturn in trade and allow them more time to plan for future expenditure. This approach will also help the GLAs to focus on the continuing need to keep their costs to an absolute minimum consistent with maintaining safety standards.