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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 February, 2004, 15:25 GMT
UK ports 'getting near capacity'
Felixstowe Port
Over 70% of all imports are carried in containers
The UK's container ports could become so congested within two years that some ships will have to be turned away, a major port operator has claimed.

Associated British Ports (ABP) said full capacity would be reached by 2006 and more ports would have to be built.

It urged the government to clear a new facility to be built at Southampton.

But the environmental group Portswatch said better use should be made of the existing ports rather than building new ones on sensitive wildlife sites.

Three new major container ports have already been proposed.

Container trade graphic
They include ABP's planned new 600m terminal at Dibden Bay in Southampton, which has already undergone a year-long inquiry.

Two other so-called super-ports, at Harwich and Shell Haven in Essex, have been proposed by other operators.

And a redevelopment of Felixstowe South in Suffolk is already under way - allowing Europe's fourth-largest port to deal with five million containers each year.

Prices affected

Bo Lerenius, ABP's chief executive, said there was now an "imminent need" to tackle container port capacity.

"We believe that decisions need to be taken as soon as possible," he said.

"We look forward to the earliest possible approval by the government of our Dibden Terminal project."

The head of the UK Major Ports Group, Steve Cuthbert agreed.

"The anticipation is that we'll run out between 2006 and 2009," he told Radio Five Live.

"Seventy percent of the world's cargo goes by container now and 90% is estimated to do it by 2010.

"If we're not careful we are going to put up the price of imports and exports and that will affect everyone in this country."

Environmental concerns

Portswatch is opposing the four port developments because of their impact on "sensitive coastal areas", transport links and local communities.

The network includes environmental groups such as Friends of the Earth, the Marine Conservation Society and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

They have argued for a moratorium on port projects until a national strategy is produced which takes account of the environmental impact of any development.

But the House of Commons rejected this on Thursday.

Replying to a report by the Transport Select Committee, the Government said: "Proposals for port expansion should be treated as far as possible in the same way as other commercial and industrial developments".

Felixstowe 1.9 million
Liverpool 0.3 million
London 0.5 million
Medway 0.3 million
Southampton 0.7 million

Wildlife warning over port plans
10 Jan 04  |  England
MPs boost super-port plan
13 Nov 03  |  Hampshire/Dorset
Port begins dock expansion
18 Aug 03  |  Suffolk
Ayrshire container port planned
31 Jul 03  |  Scotland
Port plans big expansion
04 Dec 02  |  England

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