UK ports face pivotal year

The next 12 months could be “pivotal” for UK ports as they prepare for Brexit and face increased environmental pressures.

British Ports Association chief executive Richard Ballantyne said the government’s withdrawal from the European Union would see the UK diverging from European customs rules, meaning new border controls for freight operators. “This will be a major challenge for parts of the UK logistics sector, including those on the Irish Sea, so working with the government to ensure additional costs and delays are kept to a minimum will be central to our discussions with officials,” he said in a New Year message to members.

“We also expect the government to press ahead with a free ports policy so encouraging an inclusive port zoning strategy, looking at how ports of all type and location will feature in national and regional growth strategies will be central.” But sustainability would also be a key theme in 2020, said BPA head of policy Mark Simmonds. “For many, 2020 is the year of the sulphur cap, but the focus on air emissions from ports and shipping more widely will continue to grow,” he said. “While Brexit has dominated the headlines for years, sustainability has been the issue that affects all ports and it will be near the top of the political agenda for the next decade — whether it’s emissions, planning rules or marine litter.” This would present huge challenges for ports. Sustainability and the environment would be a particular focus for the BPA this year, he said. “The energy transition will continue to change the way ports operate as some cargoes decline or fall away completely, while new ones appear and offshore renewables becomes ever more important to the sector,” said Mr Simmonds. “A new UK government, Brexit and any potential economic fallout may mean that the industry’s ideas for improving the planning and consenting regimes for ports start to be heard with more interest in Westminster, Holyrood, Cardiff Bay and Stormont.” BPA policy analyst Phoebe Warneford-Thomson added that national, regional and local planners would need to prioritise port transport and infrastructure needs in order for the sector to release new projects and developments. “While UK cargo figures did slow somewhat last year, other types of port business are thriving,” she said. “The BPA will also be heavily focusing on transport connectivity for ports to focus attention on the investment needed to better integrate ports into the wider transport infrastructure, and we will also be renewing calls for a new UK Freight Strategy to help UK ports be more agile and competitive.” Source: Lloyd's List

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