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More than one in ten port regulations in need of urgent reform

Safety loopholes, new rules on development, and the framework for securing additional energy capacity are amongst the regulations topping a new list of priorities for reform published today by the British Ports Association.

The British Ports Association’s new regulatory assessment maps out 140 rules and regulations across the UK that ports must comply with, ranking each on how well they work in practice.

Nearly half of the 17 regulations identified as needing major or urgent change are linked to sustainability and planning, although half of the sustainability linked regulations were ranked ‘green’ as fit for purpose. The BPA supports robust regulatory standards for industry and in each case supports the aim of the regulations, but would like to see reform to see them work better for both industry and the environment.

The regulatory map is illustrative and does not cover every regulation that affect ports. For instance, general rules that effect businesses or councils that own or operator ports, and reporting rules for larger businesses, are not included.

Mark Simmonds, Director of Policy at the British Ports Association said: “The BPA supports a regulatory framework that protects employees, our borders, the environment and a competitive market. Mapping port regulation is about usually about identifying areas where policy and legal frameworks can be improved rather than removed.

“For some of these issues, like closing the loophole allowing recreational sailors to drink alcohol whilst navigating vessels, we have been asking for a resolution for years. Others, like the incoming changes to terrestrial development in England, have not come into force yet but will have a major impact on ports. A fast and efficient marine and terrestrial planning framework is critical to ports’ competitiveness and it is no surprise that planning issues top the list of concerns,” Simmonds added.

“This exercise reveals the complexity of the broader regulatory framework that ports operate under. More and more of this is put in place by government departments other than the Department for Transport or their devolved equivalents. This often means that officials are building policy frameworks without the expertise of specialists in DfT. The ports industry must therefore work harder to ensure its voice is heard across government and, increasingly, in Parliament.”

The BPA said it would continue to pursue these priorities as part of its objectives for 2023 and beyond with governments across the UK.

Some of the urgent or major changes required include the need to simplify the approach to delivering biodiversity net gain in the intertidal area in England, making clear environmental gains on the dredge disposal action levels, entrance into force of the law to ban recreational boaters from navigating vessels whilst under the influence of alcohol, reform of marine licensing etc.

“Many of the biggest concerns revealed by this exercise are regulations that put a brake on sustainable development such as the system for securing new energy capacity for ports. This is crucial to support maritime decarbonisation. Marine licensing is another area that is marked in need of urgent improvement; the system needs improvement but also proper resourcing from governments and this will be critical if ports are to build the infrastructure needed to support the UK’s ambitions for offshore wind,” BPA said.


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