Harbour board blamed for export losses

Litigation is invariably self perpetuating. Such is the case with last year's flurry of court action over the legality of livestock export bans imposed following mass animal-rights demonstrations at UK ports and airports.

Ultimately one of the outcomes of the action was that a ban imposed by Dover Harbour Board, the body controlling the country's main port for livestock exports, was declared unlawful by the courts.

Now the scene is being set for a sequel to last year's litigation over the legality of the bans. This time though, the action takes the form of a hefty damages claim against Dover Harbour Board.

Facing the harbour board is a claim for some £1.5 million, mounted against it by companies who say they suffered losses as a result of bans which were ultimately outlawed.

Sheep exporters J and SA Wood, of Redditch, Worcestershire; J Sevenoaks and Sons, of Walterstone, Pontrilas, Hereford; KA and SBM Feakins, of Hereford; and German sheep slaughterers Lammschlachterei Baumann are taking the Dover Harbour Board to court with claims for £372,000, £198,930, £268,818.50 and £683,000 respectively.

In Autumn 1994, after ferry operators refused to continue shipping animals to Europe for fattening and slaughter, the companies chartered space on a ship, the Cap Canaille. However, Dover Harbour Board then insisted that livestock cargo could not be transported from Dover.

Some sheep were carried between Plymouth and Cherbourg, but this piled on costs, and was far less convenient than the Dover route. Now, the companies are blaming the Harbour Board for losses they claim they suffered as a result of the ban. These include losses due to the liquidation of one of their main French clients, which they blame on the disruption caused by the ban.

The case is being masterminded by Burstows, of Crawley, West Sussex.