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UK announces further reduction of Light Dues

UK announces further reduction of Light Dues
UK Minister for Shipping and Ports John Hayes chose the occasion of the UK Chamber of Shipping dinner earlier this week to announce a new reduction in light dues, the mandatory contribution for the upkeep of navigational aids levied on ships visiting British ports.

As of 1 April this year, the light dues rate will be reduced by 1p to 39p per net registered tonne. The move, expected to save shipowners collectively £2m ($3.04m) a year, follows a 1p reduction that took effect in April 2014.

To recap, as a response to concerted pressure from shipowner bodies, the UK government announced in 2010 that it would be streamlining the General Lighthouse Authorities (GLAs) of the British Isles - Trinity House, Northern Lighthouse Board and Commissioners of Irish Lights – with a view to being able to stabilize and even reduce the level of light dues. It also promised to resolve the historical anomaly that UK sources were still being used to fund upkeep of navigational aids in the Republic of Ireland.

Hayes announced this week in a written statement to parliament that “considerable progress” had been made on three fronts since 2010, thereby enabling the cuts.

Firstly, the three GLAs had exceeded their efficiency targets, “through working assets harder, adopting new technologies, and procuring services together to reduce net costs”. Secondly, new arrangements for GLA pension schemes had served to “further reduce costs and remove sources of volatility from the General Lighthouse Fund”. And thirdly, the cost of Irish navigational funds will be “met fully from Irish sources” from April 2015 onwards, he stated.

The Minister’s announcement of the light dues reduction at the UK Chamber dinner was met by a spontaneous round of applause from the 750 assembled diners.

Elsewhere in his speech, Hayes announced that the government would continue its commitment to supporting British maritime employment by piloting an extension to the tonnage tax scheme, which as of October this year “will now allow the option of training three able seafarer ratings each year in place of one officer cadet”.

The Minister also urged shipping companies to provide their input to a new six-month Maritime Growth Study launched last November, which he described as a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity to tweak the fiscal and regulatory parameters needed to “help the British Maritime Industry continue to compete in a global market”.