Commenting on the UK Budget Statement, the British Ports Association’s Chief Executive, Richard Ballantyne, said: “Against the backdrop of Brexit and economic uncertainty there wasn’t a great deal in this Budget for ports. We do however welcome the Government’s decision to allocate £3bn on Brexit scenario planning. It is as of yet unclear if this will be used to ensure, amongst other things, the adequacy of founding for the boarders agencies and to resource personnel and facilities for potential new customs checks and disruptive port health inspections.
“We are pleased that the Chancellor announced that the National Infrastructure Commission has been tasked with examining freight networks. As part of this exercise we will be highlighting that ports are vital components of the freight and logistics chain, as well as promoting the Department for Transport’s forthcoming Port Connectivity Study that we expect to be published shortly.”
The British Ports Association represents the interests of 100 port members, covering over 350 ports, terminal operators and port facilities. 95% of the UK’s international trade – imports and exports – is carried through UK ports which also handle 60 million passenger journeys each year and UK ports directly employ around 101,000 people, often in areas of high inequality and unemployment.
It remains to be seen whether ports might see local benefits from the separately announced £1.7bn Transforming Cities Fund, which the Chancellor said will help boost local transport connections. Other areas of interest include a £3bn Net increase in the National Productivity Investment Fund, as well as specific North Sea oil and gas tax changes to encourage continued offshore extraction and then later, an easier transition on to decommissioning projects.
There are also the much publicised stimulatory measures for house building which we hope might see an increase in construction materials being imported in through ports and finally re-confirmation that the Severn crossing tolls will be abolished by the end of 2018.
The UK port industry is the second largest in Europe, handling almost 500 million tonnes of freight each year.