The message from the ports sector ahead of the Brexit deal vote in the UK House of Commons today is that ports are resilient, but the government needs to act swiftly to manage challenges.
Ports have been making their own preparations for the UK’s exit from the European Union since the referendum vote was announced with much debate from the government over what infrastructure and processes could be put in place to best manage an exit with a deal or no deal, but uncertainty has prompted ports and port groups to protect their business viability and attractiveness.
Associated British Ports (ABP) recently announced an additional investment to boost facilities at its Port of Hull, bringing the group’s total investment to GB£250m since the referendum, including GB£50m to boost capacity at its container terminals at ABP’s ports of Hull and Immingham, which have reaped the benefits of doubts over Dover’s future.
Henrik Pedersen, CEO of ABP, said: “For ABP, ‘keeping Britain trading’ is a responsibility that we are passionately committed to. We are continuing to invest in our people, equipment and capability, so that we have the flexibility and resilience we need to help UK trade to flow and grow. We have already seen volumes begin to rise at our ports on the Humber as customers look for alternatives to Dover.”
With both doubt that the vote on Prime Minister’s Theresa May’s deal will shed immediate clarity either way, Richard Ballantyne, chief executive of the British Ports Association (BPA) said: “It is important to remember that, in the seemingly unlikely event that this deal is agreed by Parliament, this is the beginning of a process, not the end of it.
“We have yet to negotiate more than the basic principles behind our future relationship with the EU and there remains much to be agreed, including fundamental questions around if and how goods are checked and handled at the border.”
He stated in the event that no deal is agreed, the BPA urged the government to work to avoid a “disorderly withdrawal” and the “disruption this would bring at key gateways.”
UKMPG chief executive Tim Morris also emphasised the adaptability of ports in the face of change, but pointed to uncertainty as a barrier to progress. He commented: “The UKs major ports are confident of their ability to adapt to major change and continue to connect the UK to the world. But the transition from the situation today and to a new relationship with the EU will inevitably be smoother if there was greater clarity on what that future state is and the route to it. Politicians of all parties and opinions need to urgently focus on the practical solutions UK business needs.”
Source: Port Strategy