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BPA welcomes Freeports Consultation; calls for maximum ambition in scope and scale

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BPA welcomes Freeports Consultation; calls for maximum ambition in scope and scale. Image: Flickr/ John Fielding
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The British Ports Association has welcomed the publication of a new consultation on the introduction of free ports, which have the potential to transform coastal communities and unleash ‘port-centric’ growth.

The BPA is part of the Government’s Freeports Advisory Panel which is advising on options for their introduction in the UK. Last year the Association published a report outlining a bold and ambitious set of proposals in A Licence to Operate: ‘Enterprise, Development and Free Trade Zones’. This calls for freeport status to include a package of measures to support growth in coastal communities around development, consenting and enterprise. This report was written in collaboration with a number of ports and airport operators.

The BPA is now calling for Ministers to maximise their ambition and remove the cap on potential number of freeports and include a much broader package of measures that would benefit a wide range of different UK ports.

The UK has 125 cargo-handling ports. Freeport status will benefit ports differently depending on their current traffic/business profile and specialisation. Some will naturally be keener than others but there will be more than 10 of these that will want to benefit and Government should not place an arbitrary cap on this ambition.

Commenting on the consultation, Richard Ballantyne, Chief Executive of the British Ports Association and member of the Government’s Free Ports Advisory Panel, said:

“Freeports are a transformational opportunity for some UK ports that could unleash growth and development in some of the UK’s most deprived coastal areas. We will be making the case for a package of maximum ambition in both scope and scale.

Ports handle 95% of the UK’s trade and we will be putting forward a bold set of measures that support a variety of models to fit different ports and the industries that rely on them.”

Freeports will not solve issues around new ‘frictions’ that will be introduced at certain gateway ports at the end of the Brexit transition period but they could help some ports and traders deal with the range of new customs and other borders requirements at particular port operations. The BPA will continue to call for a strong trade agreement with the EU that priorities minimising the erection of new non-tariff trade barriers.

What is a ‘free port’?

Traditionally, a freeport is an area outside of a country’s customs territory but within its physical borders, sometimes known as a ‘free zone’. This allows certain goods to be transhipped or processed through a port without attracting customs duties. This means that components could be added to a product and re-exported without generating additional prohibitive costs.

If the UK ends up striking a low-alignment trade deal with the EU (or if we do not agree a deal at all), free ports may help alleviate cost burdens that may be placed on some industries that have cross-border supply chains.

The British Ports Association believes that a UK freeport model should be much wider than the traditional ‘customs’ free zone model, of which many of the benefits can be achieved through existing processes. We have set out a much broader and more ambitious freeports manifesto that would include a package of measures around development, consenting and enterprise.

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Prioritise logistics or risk supply chain chaos, FTA tells UK Brexit negotiators

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Prioritise logistics or risk supply chain chaos, FTA tells UK Brexit negotiators. Image: Pixabay
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If the UK is to continue to trade efficiently with the EU, its biggest and closest market, there are six key areas the UK’s negotiators and government need to prioritise in the opening stages of talks with Europe about their future trading relationship, according to FTA, the business organisation which represents the logistics industry.

As Elizabeth de Jong, FTA’s Policy Director, explains, failure by the UK government to prioritise the key areas outlined in FTA’s new policy blueprint, “Keeping the UK and the EU Trading”, could have a devastating effect on the UK’s highly interconnected supply chain, as well as creating a knock-on effect that will hamper the UK PLC’s future productivity and the country’s economy as a whole:

“While the UK is setting out its parameters for the future relationship with the EU in Brussels, it is vital that the needs of the logistics industry are front and centre of any conversations,” she says.  “UK PLC is reliant upon a highly complex, interconnected supply chain, and if the needs of those responsible for moving goods and services to support the country’s economy are not prioritised, the effects could be devastating for the supply of vital products to shops, schools, hospitals and manufacturing.  Delays to deliveries could well cause out of stock issues and shut down factories operating “just in time” production.  The logistics industry needs to be engaged from the start.

“The risk of disruption at the borders must be mitigated to ensure that businesses can continue to operate efficiently and effectively,” she continues.  “It costs more than £1 a minute to operate an HGV – so lengthy delays at the border could add significant costs to the price of goods, driving up prices and fuelling inflation.

“Trade facilitation measures are needed to reduce the impact of additional border requirements and red tape and help reduce the threat of delays and added costs.  There are a number of simplifications and agreements we are pressing negotiators to deliver which could mitigate many of these threats for our industry and our economy. The need for physical checks should be reduced and any which are required should be take place away from the border.

“Logistics needs to know now what procedures and processes will be used to cross borders, to have time to test and feedback on proposals, and then time to install and train staff. The detail our members need is not available. Complex new systems cannot be delivered overnight without interruptions to the existing supply chain, even with the best will in the world.

“There is a substantial customs agent shortage and member states and the UK government need to urgently address this by giving support, guidance and funding.  Sufficient co-funded training should be provided for those new to completing customs declarations, as well as for those handling a significant increase in declarations and other new administrative requirements.

Speaking on behalf of FTA’s membership, Ms de Jong confirmed that there are other key arrangements which must be clarified if all modes of transport are to continue to cross the UK’s borders effectively:  “Existing arrangements for road, air, sea and rail connectivity must be formally agreed soon or the impact on the availability of goods our society and the economy relies upon will be catastrophic.  And to support this, the ability of UK workers to cross borders easily must be protected – goods cannot move without a human interaction, leaving vehicles stranded at borders if extensive immigration checks are carried out.

“Logistics is a massive sector that’s vital to UK PLC, directly impacting the lives of more than seven million people employed in the making, selling and moving of goods. It is a flexible, highly adaptable industry, which stands ready to support the government as the UK moves towards a new economic relationship with the EU. But government needs to prioritise the needs of logistics in the first round of negotiations, so that we have time to adopt and adapt to the future arrangements to keep Britain and the EU trading after the transition period. December is only a few months away, and we need months not minutes to prepare.”

With Brexit, new technology and other disruptive forces driving change in the way goods move across borders and through the supply chain, logistics has never been more important to UK plc.  A champion and challenger, FTA speaks to Government with one voice on behalf of the whole sector, with members from the road, rail, sea and air industries, as well as the buyers of freight services such as retailers and manufacturers.

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EIB supports refurbishment of Port of Ystad to accommodate climate-friendly vessels

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EIB supports refurbishment of Port of Ystad to accommodate climate-friendly vessels. Image: EIB
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The European Investment Bank (EIB) has signed a SEK 445 million (EUR 41.75 m) loan agreement with the Municipality of Ystad. The port in the southern-Swedish town is a busy connection point to the Polish Port of Swinoujscie and the Danish island of Bornholm. The financing will be used to expand the quays to accommodate new, more environmentally friendly, LNG vessels of over 240 meters in length, which will start operating next year.

The project aims at increasing the capacity and upgrading the Port of Ystad facilities in order to accommodate larger ro-pax vessels. Works include the construction of two new, deeper, ferry berths at a new pier located in the outer port basin, with associated facilities in reclaimed areas located to the east of the new berths. It also consists of dredging works in the existing outer basin of the port, the construction of a new breakwater south of the existing eastern breakwater, with a new reclaimed platform for future port activities expansion and the extension of the breakwater at the western part of the port.

The project is expected to improve the climate performance of the port. Measures undertaken in this sense include the improvement of on-shore power supply for berthed vessels, and a reduction of emissions by manoeuvring vessels due to easier berthing.

“Ystad is a key connection point for tourism and transport in Sweden.” says EIB Vice President Thomas Östros. “As the climate bank of the EU, the EIB wants to provide finance to projects that seek to reduce the environmental impact of their operations, while keeping business going and stimulating sustainable growth and job creation. This project is spot on in all of those senses.”

”With this investment, Port of Ystad will soon be well prepared to further consolidate its position as the third largest ferry passenger port in Sweden.” added Björn Boström, CEO of Port of Ystad. “Now, in an even more environmentally friendly way.”

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European Shipping Week 2020 opens with the latest figures on European shipping

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European Shipping Week 2020 opens with the latest figures on European shipping. Image: Flickr/ William Murphy
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The European Shipping Week 2020 – the biggest shipping event in Brussels and the flagship event of ECSA – opened on 17th February with the release of the latest figures on European shipping by Oxford Economics.

According to the latest information from 2018, European shipping directly contributed €54 billion to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the EU. Taking into account the spill over effects to other sectors of the EU economy, the total contribution stands at €149 billion.

The European shipping industry directly employs 685,000 people. In total, taking into account the effects on other sectors of the EU economy, the European shipping industry is supporting 2 million jobs.

A direct comparison with the previous 2015 figures is difficult, due to changes in methodology and data sources. However, the trends are clear. The European shipping industry, with a few exceptions, is still under severe pressure from difficult market conditions, leading to a decline of the contribution to the EU’s GDP. As a result also the number of jobs created by the European shipping industry remains under pressure.

“Shipping is and should always remain one of the most valuable assets of Europe, economically, socially and culturally. There are many opportunities as well as challenges facing the sector. Especially the continued depressed market conditions for many EU shipowners pose extra challenges for the industry that wants to decarbonise as quickly as possible and to contribute to safe and highly skilled jobs in Europe. For European shipping to stay in business, regulators have to adopt a global perspective and ensure a global level playing field,” concluded Mr Dorsman.

“The current tensions between the global trading powers, the rise of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and the insecurity along the Gulf of Hormuz all contribute to difficult and uncertain market conditions,” commented Martin Dorsman, ECSA’s Secretary General.

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