HC Deb 24 April 1950 vol 474 cc574-5
4. Mr. Keenan

asked the Minister of Transport why British ships are delayed at the Pont of Beira, Africa, sometimes for weeks, before being loaded or discharged; and what steps are being taken to prevent this loss of time by ships, which adds to the cost of the voyage.

Mr. Barnes

These delays arise from the fact that the capacity of the Port of Beira is not sufficient to deal with the amount of traffic which it is at present being required to handle. The port is under Portuguese control and, following recent discussions in Lisbon, measures are now being considered by the Governments acid commercial interests concerned which, it is hoped, will not only clear the existing congestion, but, by keeping the flow of cargo within the capacity of the port, will remove the cause of the present serious delays to shipping.

Mr. Keenan

Has the Minister considered any alternative way in which the goods can flow through this port to their intended destinations? Ships have been kept waiting at this port for four and five weeks, which adds an impossible cost to the voyage.

Mr. Barnes

I can assure my hon. Friend that I have been very much concerned at the delay to British shipping caused by the congestion at this port, and that every effort is being made to deal with the difficulty.

Sir Peter Macdonald

Have the negotiations between the Southern Rhodesian Government and the Portuguese authorities come to a conclusion, and has the conclusion been satisfactory? This congestion at Beira has been going on for years, and the British Government have not done very much to try to alleviate it.

Mr. Barnes

While it has been going on for some time, it has become very much aggravated in recent months. As I have indicated in my reply, as a result of the conferences in Lisbon various proposals are being examined which, it is hoped, will remove the more serious causes of delay.

Mr. Thomas Reid

Is it not a fact that there has been the grossest discrimination against British shipping at this port in favour of Portuguese shipping?