Ministers declared last week they were confident a dispute with DP World over the funding of the £1.65bn extension of Shellhaven port in the Thames Estuary would be resolved.
This is despite the fact that the port operator maintains the project is “under review”.
The project is in limbo as DP World argues with the government about who should fund channel dredging and improvements to the motorway junction between the M25 and A13 in Essex (NCE 30 April).
“The commitment is still there and we are confident the project will complete.”
Shahid Malik, Thames Gateway minister
Speaking at the Labour Party conference in Brighton, Thames Gateway minister Shahid Malik said: “The global economic downturn [is responsible for this dispute] but the commitment is still there and we are confident the project will complete.”
Transport minister Paul Clark added: “We are where we are because of the economic cycle and will work with DP World to take this forward.”
The port operator is in talks with the European Investment Bank (EIB) to secure a loan to enable the scheme to proceed. There are “certainly discussions going on”, a source said.
DP World has sought to renegotiate the planning permission terms that were agreed in 2008, which required it to fund up to £500M of infrastructure upgrades, which DP World and developer Laing O’Rourke are now seeking to pay for in arrears.
A source close to the project stated: “Much of the discussion has been about reducing the initial infrastructure costs. How can the timing of contributions be rephased? Do we need this bit of new road before the port opens for business?”
Work to build the UK’s largest business and logistics park on the site was due to start earlier