The British Ports Association has launched a video highlighting the importance of ports to the UK’s economy. The film uses new economic impact study data produced for Maritime UK – an umbrella group promoting the industry – to highlight the value of the UK ports industry. The figures show that collectively the industry employs 101,000 people, handles almost 500 million tons of freight and contributes £7.5 billion ($7.9 billion) to the economy.
The Chief Executive of The British Ports Association, Richard Ballantyne, said: “We are regularly told by Ministers to ‘shout louder’ about the ports sector to ensure that when policy decisions are made, the industry’s voice is heard. In recent years, Government transport spending has been allocated toward big ticket passenger schemes, away from freight and port connectivity projects and at the same time there has been a steady introduction of planning and consenting conditions and restrictions on port activity and development. There is general feeling amongst ports that their role and contribution is not always valued as much as it should be.”
The UK has the second largest ports industry in Europe. The main markets for ports are unitized trade (which can be broken down into container and roll-on roll-off traffic), and bulk trade, most of which is comprised of oil, liquid products and dry cargo such as aggregates. The main expansion over the past 20 years has been the growth of unitized traffic, reflecting changes in the UK economy which is heavily import dependent, especially for high-value finished goods.
Bulk cargo volumes had remained broadly steady in the last 10 years although recent changes in energy policy have seen, for example, coal throughput decline dramatically. Many of these cargoes are closely tied to, for example, changes in the oil price and the fortunes of the construction industry. Other trades and non-cargo activities such as providing services to the offshore industries, landside hubs for the fishing industry, helping facilitate numerous marine leisure activities and cruise ship calls, means that between them, UK ports handle more than 60 million passenger journeys each year.
The British Ports Association has said that it is vital that Government agrees a post Brexit customs strategy that does not create lorry parks on roads leading to Ro-Ro ports such as Dover, Portsmouth and Holyhead. Ports handling bulk shipments have expressed less concern. A Brexit trade deal is likely to be agreed this year, and the British Ports Association has said that it will continue to push for areas around ports to be classified with a special planning and consenting status and for increased public investment in port connectivity schemes to help stimulate port development and growth.
The British Ports Association has also called on the UK Government to provide:
• An efficient and streamlined planning and consents regime for port activity and developments
• Priority given to public funding of road and rail connections to ports
• A Brexit trade facilitation pledge for ‘frictionless’ border controls
• Reduced burdens on business through the ‘Great Repeal Bill’
• Recognition of the major benefits of maritime transport with targeted assistance for modal shift
• Active support for the cross-section of port ownership models.