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Port’s report shows £3m fall in profits and fewer shipments

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THE PORT OF MILFORD HAVEN has published its 2017 Annual Report and Accounts, revealing a £3m fall in profits alongside a 2.8m tonne decrease in throughput for the year.

The Port feels this was due mostly to the ongoing volatility in the Liquefied Natural Gas industry which saw record low shipments in 2017, and in part to an additional £1m pension service charge due to changes in long term interest rates.

The report also records an increase in the number of employee concerns and incidents over the past year, with the Port suggesting this is merely a result of the updated complaint mechanism.

To illustrate the volatility of the Gas Industry, in 2011 the port handled 126 LNG vessels. In 2013 this had fallen to 54, rising again to 91 in 2015, before falling to a low of 36 in 2017-just over one quarter of the throughput in  2011.

This volatility is driven by the differential in the price of wholesale gas in the UK market compared to other markets such as the Far East and Latin America.

This is not due to Brexit, nor low oil prices, but is due to the balance of supply and demand in the gas wholesale markets, not only in the UK, but also across the globe.

The global market for LNG is heavily influenced by the regularly fluctuating price, with increased demand in locations such as China and India seeing it sold there rather than being transported to Milford Haven.

In 2016’s report, the Port recorded a 26% reduction in the volume of LNG handled and they had anticipated this headline trade being substantially lower again in 2017.

Chris Martin, Chair of Board conceded that the significant reduction in LNG activity supports the need to diversify the Port’s revenues into new areas of business, reducing the impact of oil and gas market influences or the loss of a major customer.

A major investment was completed last year which saw the acquisition of Havens Head Retail Park. The retail park will complement the Port’s extensive property portfolio and become a key part of the Milford Waterfront development, creating close to 600 new jobs in Milford Haven. The first construction element is now underway.

Pension costs in 2017 were, at £2.3m, nearly £1m higher than in the preceding year. This additional charge taken through the profit and loss account is based on a technical calculation driven by accounting standards of the true annual cost to the port of funding pension obligations.

The calculation is highly dependent on current long term interest rates which reduced significantly in 2016 and which led to the £6.6m reversal of the Port’s scheme into a 10% deficit position shown in 2016’s accounts.

The accounting entries serve to underline why, in terms of employee benefits, it is now almost universally the case that businesses have moved substantially towards offering defined contribution schemes only.

The Port’s policy is to provide employee pay and benefits in line with the median market and therefore it is currently consulting on a move to a  defined contribution scheme for new employees.

In the past year the Port has set up an Assurance Framework (AF) to provide a mechanism for reporting incidents, near misses and concerns, whether they are minor or major in nature.

Employees are encouraged to submit AF reports, which resulted in the number rising from 247 in 2016 to 318 in 2017.

During the year the number of near misses fell from 81 to 20, concerns increased from 67 to 124 and incidents rose from 99 to 174.

The Port were however able to record zero lost time accidents in 2017.

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Newgale: New £30m road proposed to combat coastal damage

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL has revealed a preferred new route for a road around Newgale today (Sept 25) at an event in Roch.

The new stretch of road would begin at Pencym and end at a new roundabout near Roch.

A new route is needed due to fears about road closures during high tides and winds, as well as coastal damage caused by global warming.

Reports have suggested that the current Newgale road may not exist in 20 years times.

The new route could cost up to £30m – compared to £40m a proposed viaduct would cost – and would need funding from the Welsh Government.

A Welsh Government spokesman said: “Transport officials will continue to work closely with the authority as they progress with their studies and firm up their proposals for addressing the current problems with the A487.

“Welsh Government is open to consider an application for funding to move forward the development work.”

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MP calls on Welsh Government to explain broadband delays

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STEPHEN CRABB has called on the Welsh Government to come clean over broadband rollout delays.

Minister Julie James AM, whose responsibilities include digital infrastructure and inclusion, has been urged to explain the reasons for delays to the rollout of superfast broadband to rural properties across Wales.

Last year, the Superfast Cymru scheme saw BT receive £425m in return for connecting the vast majority of premises in Wales to next-generation broadband.

When the contract ended, 90,000 mainly rural properties still had not been connected. Further details of another scheme to complete the work were due to be announced in July, but at the start of August, Julie James AM suddenly announced that ‘unforeseen issues’ were causing delays which could not be further discussed because of ‘commercial confidentiality’.

Stephen Crabb, MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire, said: “It’s simply unacceptable for the Minister responsible to announce delays to the next stage of Broadband rollout but refuse to explain why. Access to reliable, fast broadband is of increasing importance to businesses, large and small, in Pembrokeshire and I have worked with many across the constituency to improve their broadband access.

“However, the digital divide continues to exist with rural communities in Pembrokeshire suffering again. It is an inescapable fact that delivery of broadband infrastructure is devolved to the Welsh Government and Julie James AM should now come forward and explain the reasons for these delays.”

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Air ambulance lands at ‘serious’ crash scene

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THE WALES AIR AMBULANCE has landed at the scene of a serious crash this morning (Sept 25) between the Sentry Cross and Honeyborough roundabouts on the A477.

Posts on Facebook from witnesses at the scene say a man is being treated by paramedics.

Police have said one car was involved in the incident.

In addition to the helicopter, Dyfed-Powys Police, the Welsh Ambulance Service and Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service are at the scene.

The road is currently closed with diversions in place.

A police spokesperson said:  “Dyfed-Powys Police is at the scene of a serious RTC between the Sentry Cross and Honeyborough roundabouts, Pembrokeshire.

“The A477 stretch between those roundabouts is currently closed while emergency services deal with the incident. One car is involved; the driver has received serious injuries.

“No further information is available at this time.”

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