‘Why should boatowners have to subsidise airport?’
BOATOWNERS are being forced to cover airport losses by paying more for their moorings, the president of the Guernsey Marine Traders Association has said.
‘The logic applied by the States’ Trading Supervisory Board is that the harbours have to increase their rates, especially the mooring holders, to pay for the short-term and long-term losses at the airport,’ said David Norman.
‘This is a logic that we cannot accept as being fair, reasonable, equitable or making economic sense.’
Mr Norman said that, according to the GMTA’s calculations, between 1996 and 2022 the harbours made an operating surplus of £31.1m., while the airport lost £40.7m.
He also said that the harbours’ net contribution to the ports’ holding account over the same period had been £31.7m., while the airport had withdrawn £53.4m.
This led him to question why harbour users, particularly leisure boaters, were being asked to effectively ‘pay twice’.
‘The current PHA would only work if both the harbours and airport paid back all funds borrowed from the account with capital and interest, as well as posting reasonable profits at both the harbours and airport on average over the years,’ Mr Norman said.
He was also concerned that the planned rises, announced by Guernsey Ports last month as part of a push to reduce taxpayer subsidies for the ports, would reduce demand for leisure berths, and negatively impact the ports’ calculated revenue projections.
The proposed fee increases, currently out for consultation, are over a three-year period from 2024 to 2026. It is proposed that fees would increase by 50% for smaller boats and up to 93% for larger vessels, with RPI increases on top for 2025 and 2026.
Consultation on the proposals has been taking place this month with port users and leisure customers ahead of Guernsey Ports finalising its charges for 2024.
Mr Norman said that the proposed increases would see some boatowners ‘forced’ to give up boating and mean the ports’ revenue projections would not be met.
‘While there may be a perception in the wider community that boatowners are financially well off, in most cases this is simply not the case.
‘The proposed excessive increase in leisure boating mooring fees, before inflationary increases are added, will undoubtedly place an undue financial burden on many leisure boatowners.’
He added that fees should only continue to increase by RPI, a pricing model which he said had been ‘highly successful’ in generating a surplus over the years.
‘While extremely wealthy individuals may be unaffected by the proposed fee increases and pay them without issue, this could lead to leisure boating activities becoming dominated by the wealthy.
‘This would indeed be a sad day for the island when historically marina fee affordability has allowed the man in the street to enjoy the boating experience which Guernsey offers.’
Guernsey Ports managing director Colin Le Ray said that the Ports did not currently generate sufficient income to meet its operating costs and maintenance requirements, and had relied on taxpayer support over the last three years, which was unsustainable in the long-term.
‘The current proposal is that leisure mooring fees would contribute around 15% of the total additional revenue,’ he said.
‘We fully understand that is unpalatable to our leisure marine customers, and we fully understand why that is the case. That is the reason why we have proposed phasing in any mooring fee increases over the next three years.’
He said that, while RPI-only increases were attractive compared to the current proposals, they would not address the ports’ funding deficits.
‘The need to recapitalise and reinvest is clear, and many boatowners and their representative bodies, including the GMTA, have previously made strong representations on the need to repair and renew infrastructure in many areas.
‘The proposed change to the income stream across all the Ports functions forms an important and critical route to securing that investment for maintenance and renewal.’