Speaking ahead of this week's British Ports Association Annual Conference in Poole, BPA Chief Executive Richard Ballantyne (pictured) called on the various tiers of government around the UK to do more to follow through on transport spending and planning reform.
Ballantyne said: "As the UK ports industry comes together in Poole this week we will be calling on the Government to ensure that initiatives such as the DfT's ‘English Port Connectivity Study’ are backed up with commitments on spending. We will also be suggesting that similar assessments are undertaken in the rest of the UK.
Alongside this there is a growing concern in the ports industry that the planning and associated marine consenting regimes now include too many restrictive and costly conditions. Furthermore, there is a genuine lack of understanding by government of the negative consequences that environmental designations such as MPAs, MCZs, and SPAs have on port activity and future development.”
He continued: “Ports of all sizes provide hubs for regional clusters of employment and economic activity, often in areas of deprivation. This means that ensuring ports can operate and grow is important to the national and regional economic health of the country.
Policy makers regularly concede that ports are overlooked in government strategies, so in the run up to Brexit now is the chance to help provide the sector with the tools it needs to grow and invest. It's well known that ports handle 95% of the UK's trade but surprisingly initiatives such as the government's ‘Industrial Strategy’ only includes minimal coverage of issues such as port connectivity and nothing on port planning and development."
The BPA Conference attracts over 200 delegates and a range of port representatives from around the UK and beyond. It is the unrivalled annual event for UK ports, when senior figures from the sector come together and a range of speakers cover topics like ports policy, socio-economic issues, Brexit, shipping trends, safety and training, marine and fisheries, legal issues and the outlook for business.
The conference also includes a full social programme as well as a port visit to enable delegates to see the recent development work around Poole Harbour. Each year the BPA Conference is held at a different port location around the UK and next year’s will be hosted by the Port of Tyne on 10th & 11th October and in 2019 it will be organised by Belfast Harbour.
Finally, on a sombre note, Maria Pittordis, Partner and Head of Marine, Trade and Energy at maritime law firm Hill Dickinson, who had been due to speak at the Conference, sadly passed away last week after a short illness. Maria was a highly respected and popular figure in the maritime sector and the BPA has sent its condolences to her colleagues and friends at Hill Dickinson and asked them to pass on sympathies to her family.
Ports industry urges Brexit negotiation agreement on a mutually beneficial trade facilitation strategy
Ahead of this week's EU Council summit the British Ports Association's Ballantyne urged the UK Government and the EU to find a creative and sensible Brexit solution to the challenges facing roll-on roll-off ferry ports and operators in the logistics sector. Commenting Mr Ballantyne suggested: "Whatever the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, it is vital that freight and passengers continues to pass smoothly through our ports. There has been much attention of agreeing a free trade deal with the EU but it is important not overlook potentially more costly disruption created from non-tariff barriers at the border.
So far, the issues of trade facilitation at the border have been well publicised but we are concerned that the recent UK-EU stalemate means that the possibility of bureaucratic customs checks and potentially disruptive port health controls is a distinct possibility for all types of port traffic with Europe.
There has been much focus on the potential disruption facing the roll-on roll-off ferry services however failure to reach agreements on environmental standards could have wider implications. This could potentially mean prescriptive port health controls for agricultural and food cargoes at all types of port with such trade with the EU. At best without agreement these could be time-consuming, costly and disruptive border checks, at worst they could create significant infrastructure challenges for port terminals need new inspection facilities.
This is an issue facing ports both in the UK and the EU and so it will be in both sides' interests to reach an agreement."
As well as the challenges there are a number of potential post Brexit and opportunities and of these possibilities Mr Ballantyne also said: "Generally, a number of UK ports are looking at opportunities such as new trade and initiatives like free trade zones after the UK leaves the EU. We are also discussing with government how the planning framework might be made to work better for ports and developers.
There is a long way to go but Brexit does provide the opportunity to make the consenting process more amenable to support growth and development at all types and sizes of port. We have particularly welcomed recent pledges by UK Ports Minister John Hayes MP that the UK intended to overturn the recently passed EU Port Services Regulation post Brexit."