NEW anti-pollution shipping laws that could see the price of ferry journeys rocket and cause job losses have been debated at Westminster.
Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt and Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage both questioned transport minister Stephen Hammond in the debate yesterday.
As reported, there are fears the new regulations for low sulphur rules, due to come into effect on January 1 next year, will force ferry operators to push up prices and make job cuts.
Mr Hammond said he was disappointed shipping companies are saying they will not be able to change their fleets to more environmentally friendly ones in time.
He said the regulation was part of an international agreement, which the UK could not delay, and that the Chamber of Shipping had agreed in 2008 that it was a realistic timescale.
Ms Mordaunt said the minister is now working to secure funding which would help affected firms meet the deadline.
Mr Hammond said: ‘It is not an action that has happened today, yesterday or even last year.
‘It is something the shipping industry has had over six years to get its head around.’
Ms Mordaunt pushed the minister for reassurances the changes would not have a negative impact on Portsmouth.
Ms Mordaunt said: ‘Clearly as the deadline looms there are some businesses that are not as far forward as they would like to be.
‘We have got to enable them to meet the deadline.
‘The minister had given us some reassurances about Portsmouth’s ambitions and has promised to keep us posted.’
Ms Mordaunt said the minister had ‘been at the very front of it’ and that he is now working to secure funding to help companies meet the deadline.
Steve Tuckwell, director of Portsmouth port operations for Brittany Ferries, which said earlier this week it could be forced to cut jobs if the deadline is not extended, said: ‘It is very easy for the minister to say that we have had years to do this in.
‘The trouble is there was not the technology available to make the changes.
‘It is only in the last two years that the technology has been fit for purpose.’
Ships can either be fitted with a new engine or they can have a sulphur scrubber fitted.
Mr Tuckwell added: ‘With the best will in the world, we won’t meet the deadline.
‘If we are punished twice — by converting our fleet and facing increased fuel costs — then that’s unfair.
‘But it is encouraging to hear there is the possibility of some help.’