Tuesday, April 24, 2018

British Ports Look to Government for Money and Assurance on Post Brexit Infrastructure

Supply Chain Industry Concerned That Facilities May Not be Prepared
Shipping News Feature
UK – EUROPE – The British Ports Association (BPA) has written to the Prime Minister calling for funding guarantees for any new border facilities and digital infrastructure, which may be needed after the UK leaves the European Union. There are concerns from the industry that those ports with EU traffic will need to provide new facilities and digital infrastructure for government officials to carry out customs and other border checks. In the letter, Richard Ballantyne, Chief Executive of the British Ports Association said:

“There are around 30 Government agencies or organisations which can carry out procedures at ports and we expect there to be both physical and digital infrastructure requirements at the border to accommodate any new arrangements following Brexit. It is critical that these agencies are prepared for new Brexit regime and that the infrastructure those arrangements will require is in place in time. Last Autumn’s Budget Statement included significant funding for Brexit preparations and we are seeking your assurances that this will cover the resourcing of these physical facilities and not just additional staff so as not to introduce further potential negative impacts on ports.”

Of particular concern is the traffic travelling via the UK’s Roll-on Roll-off ferry ports, such as Dover, Holyhead, Portsmouth and a number of terminals with links to the continent and Ireland. Such ports facilitate in excess of 10,000 lorry journeys between the UK and the EU each day, representing 22% of the UK’s entire maritime trade and the majority of the UK’s EU traffic. The Association represents almost all of these ports and terminals, which almost exclusively on EU routes and therefore do not presently have the facilities for customs officials and other borders agencies. Ballantyne continued:

“To truly achieve the Government’s ambition of frictionless trade, it will be important to ports that the only passenger and freight checks that take place at the border itself are those that cannot possibly be done elsewhere. We would also expect that facilities are shared to prevent new requirements causing additional disruption or duplicate infrastructure being built.”

Many in the supply chain feel that the government has perhaps not fully grasped the potential for disaster if the question of frictionless, or at least efficient, borders is not resolved. Those of us old enough, and unfortunately that includes our editorial staff, who remember customs formalities into and out of some countries in pre Common Market days, can recall delays of up to six weeks for trucks wishing to cross at border posts such as that of Irun joining Spain with France. The thought of anything like the delays incurred in those days is enough to send a shudder down the spine of anyone looking to be involved in post Brexit logistics.

We already see the effect of influences such as weather on the flow of freight, with 35 mile queues after Operation Stack in Kent has been implemented being a good example. Imagine the problems if traffic entering the UK is slowed to a similar pace by border restrictions as ferries arrive to discharge only to find dock throughput at capacity. We now have ‘smart’ motorways in place and similar thought processes may be required for border points should agreement on trade not be reached.

Photo: The slightest delay at a border can have a catastrophic knock on effect.