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PORT NEWS: Public Inquiry Into Charges

Dover Harbour Board came under fire from ferry operators as a public inquiry into the level of its charges for 2010 and 2011 started. Appearing before inspector Lloyd Rogers at a hearing, P&O Ferries’ chief executive Helen Deeble described discussions over the tariffs for use of the Eastern Docks ferry berths as ‘time-consuming and utterly pointless.’

Ms Deeble said ferry operators now had a total lack of trust in the Harbour Board, adding: ‘In the last few years, the process of setting the annual tariffs has become more and more unsatisfactory, with a lack of consultation, and the Harbour Board’s failure to take our views into account. We have a real sense of frustration. We have not had any meaningful negotiations or an attempt at compromise. They just seem to insist on doing it their way and they don’t care about their customers,’ Ms Deeble maintained.

SeaFrance managing director Robin Wilkins said efficiencies could be made, pointing to savings by operators when some of the landside operations were privatised. However, Thomas Hill QC, for the Harbour Board, accused Mr Wilkins of ‘a rant’ at management.

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