Westminster Energy, Environment & Transport Forum - The future for Ports in the UK: priorities post the EU exit transition period, infrastructure development and freight


The context for discussion:

  • COVID-19 - significant challenges and pressures affecting ports throughout the UK, with disrupting port operations and efficiency
  • UK transition - ongoing trade and access talks, and contingency planning in the run-up to the end-of-year deadline
  • Government accelerates border planning for the end of the Transition Period - including £84m to support the growth of the customs intermediary sector
  • Freeports consultation: boosting trade, jobs and investment across the UK - on creating up to 10 freeports in locations across the UK
  • the National Infrastructure Strategy - expected to outline the Government’s long-term priorities, and due to be  published this Autumn unaffected by the cancellation of the Autumn Budget
  • 5-year plan promoting the UK’s world class global maritime offer - from the DIT outlining key areas such as port digitisation, use of autonomous technology, and the greening of port operations, and their role in improving the strength and competitiveness of UK ports

Key areas for discussion:

  • COVID-19:
    • what can be learned - taken forward the experience from how the sector has adapted to COVID-19
    • safeguarding port operations in the context of the pandemic and in case of further lockdowns - financial support mechanisms and how they are accessed, arrangements for facilities to remain open and safe for cargo and port users, and latest thinking on utilising facilities efficiently to protect supply chain operations
  • transition preparation:
    • what will be required from policy in order to minimise further challenges - protecting the financial sustainability of key supply chains, and the flow of travel and trade, and to communicate clear rules for stakeholders as relations change with the EU
    • assessing readiness - the impact of the intensification of recent preparations for the upcoming end of the transition period including the support for the customs intermediary sector and customs requirements for imported and exported items, the declaration of goods, and increased physical checks
    • minimising disruption to trade - boosting capacity for increased checks and traffic, designing standardised administrative procedures and documentation, and opportunities presented by digital technology for streamlining the flow of goods
    • EU exit scenarios - preparing for a range of outcomes and unforeseen impacts, how best to adjust to new tariff regimes, priorities for providing policy advice to different sectors, developing workforce skills for goods checking and other processes, and assessing the scope of further support measures for businesses and the ports sector
  • developing port infrastructure in the UK - priorities for supporting economic growth:
  • major port readiness - scaling up terminal capacity for international trade including new sectors and export markets, and developing partnerships with industry to develop new services
  • smart ports:
    • developing a pathway for modernisation and addressing challenges
    • digitising logistics and technical operations, and automating stacking and crane functions
    • accessing funding for innovation and strategies for ensuring the developments contribute to increasing efficiency and reducing operational costs
  • connectivity - priorities for positioning and integrating ports within the wider transport infrastructure network
  • economic impact - maximising the role of ports in relation to their local businesses and communities, and their economies and employment markets
  • decarbonisation:
    • innovation and next steps for reducing operational emissions, including integrating more advanced emissions analysis measures on site
    • supporting the growth of low carbon shipping and working with energy-intensive sectors, including supporting the development of alternative fuel markets
    • collaboration with local government and other stakeholders such as higher education on integrated local net-zero strategies
  • freeports - the potential opportunities for economic growth, as well as implications on customs regimes, with the Government planning up to 10 new freeports across the UK
    • maximising the economic impact of freeports - priorities for setting rules on duty-free imports, assembly, and re-export as we all as communicating new and flexible taxation rates to businesses, and ensuring freeports offer competitive and attractive destinations for business location
    • establishing a system that fosters and drives innovation - providing dynamic regulation for innovators, enabling new business models and industries to operate in growth hubs, and latest thinking on growing productivity through the development of start-ups and new technology