Wednesday, April 25, 2018

English Ports Need Better Connections to Boost Post Brexit Freight Trade

Government Connectivity Study Welcomed by Industry Lobbyists
Shipping News Feature
UK – Following a plea from US port operators earlier this week for a light government touch on sanctions to ensure a better transport infrastructure for freight in the future, now a study, released by the UK Government showing that better connections to English ports could help businesses thrive and boost the nation's economy has been welcomed by both the British Ports Association (BPA) and the UK Major Ports Group (UKMPG), with the UKMPG saying that delivering on the recommendations of the Study and building from it will be crucial to boost post-Brexit trade, growth and jobs.

The Government’s Port Connectivity Study; ‘Transport Infrastructure for our global future’, along with a set of regional case studies on port connectivity was officially launched by the UK Maritime Minister, Nusrat Ghani at the BPA’s Annual Lunch in London, and highlights the importance of England's harbours and its global trade links, showing how ports can flourish by improving connections to inland businesses.

Improved road and rail links can provide more effective freight journeys between key economic areas and ports, boosting productivity, lowering costs and giving access to international markets. Shipping Minister Nusrat Ghani said:

“The nation’s ports are crucial to our success, contributing £5.4 billion to our economy. Shipping is still one of the most efficient way of transporting goods from across the globe into our homes. But the journey doesn’t stop at a port. Good connections to distributors and manufacturers are also vital in ensuring that products reach our shelves without delay.

“Better links won’t just boost imports, but will also support British companies that export products across the globe, helping them exploit new international trade opportunities.”

According to the report, extensive government investment is already improving port access, unlocking private sector funding and stimulating economic growth across the country, with £235 million invested between 2014 and 2019 to improve rail links, and £23 billion to provide better journeys on England’s roads.

The report also offers a series of recommendations for government and industry on how to raise the profile of shipping, encourage closer collaboration on freight movements and improve information-sharing. This is intended to deliver an ambitious vision for the long term future of port connectivity, linking in with the government’s long term strategy, Maritime 2050, which is currently subject to a call for evidence which closes on May 16. In welcoming the initiative, the BPA’s Chief Executive, Richard Ballantyne said:

“Ports are vital components of the UK economy, acting as gateways for 95% of the UK’s international trade, as well as providing regional hubs for economic activity and employment. The sector is independent of Government but does rely on public investment in road and rail connections and this Study highlights a number of challenges for policy makers. We look forward to working with the relevant parts of government along with industry partners to explore ways to promote what ports do and the reasons why port connectivity should be prioritised.

”Nationally, Government is starting to understand the issues and we saw good progress in the last Road Investment Strategy where a handful major port schemes were recognised. The feedback we have received from regional policy makers however centres on limited resources. Local authority budgets have come under much pressure and they will need both strategic direction and investment if challenges such as new links, bottlenecks and ‘last mile connections’ to ports are to be overcome.

“The quality of the road network is critical for efficient freight movement and business growth and roads are vital for UK ports, handling up to 85% of port hinterland traffic. There are also aspirations to increase rail freight in the UK and the BPA has previously called for increased capacity on the network. Improving existing links to ports and exploring new opportunities for those ports currently without rail access should be prioritised. There are also opportunities for developing increased coastal shipping and we are pleased that the Study includes a commitment to explore this policy.”

Mr Ballantyne’s counterpart, James Cooper, Chief Executive of Associated British Ports (ABP) and Chair of UKMPG, supported the industry line, adding:

“The Port Connectivity Study is very welcome. UK Major Ports Group members invest more than half a billion pounds a year in UK ports and infrastructure, but for the UK to maximise the value of this investment for the nation these ports need to be well connected to the rest of the economy. The Study’s recognition of the need to take a joined up, multimodal approach to key trade enabling freight corridors anchored on major ports is particularly welcome.

“As the UK nears Brexit it’s vital that there is a focus on ensuring that we have the right infrastructure to enable trade. With ports handling 95% of the UKs trade in goods, the Port Connectivity Study is therefore as timely as it is welcome.”