BPA Chief Executive Richard Ballantyne outlines the Association’s key priorities for 2019. The BPA is looking at challenges and opportunities facing UK ports beyond Brexit this year, although potential new border controls, changes to environmental and regulatory rules and a new fisheries policy remain as major themes for the industry in 2019. Whilst Brexit has often seemed all-consuming, the BPA is keen to focus on port sector promotion, increased public transport investment, planning/consenting improvements and issues around people and safety which will all be priorities for all ports across the UK. Working in partnership with the Westminster and devolved administrations will continue to be a feature this year.
Outlining the BPA’s key aims and on Brexit, Mr Ballantyne said:
“2019 will be another critical year for UK ports and in the coming months we should start know what Brexit will look like. UK ports provides important international gateways for goods and passengers and it is essential that the industry features highly in the Government’s Brexit considerations. This is particularly important to pro-trade facilitation measures in relation to any new border control processes at British ports and especially at the UK’s network of Roll-on Roll-off ferry ports which facilitate much of the UK’s European trade.”
Alongside Brexit the BPA has been promoting a ‘Port Zoning’ policy which the BPA will be looking to evidence and provide further analysis on. Mr Ballantyne continued:
“The BPA’s Port Development and Enterprise Zone concept is our vision is for areas around ports to be classified with a special planning, consenting, business and regulatory status to help stimulate port development and growth. The idea could see the growth of a network regional hubs around port and coastal locations across the UK. Ports themselves are often in areas of deprivation and economic need. Business, enterprise and skills incentives could be designed to help ports, tenants and connected businesses. Many of the rules in relation to environmental legislation and consenting stem from the EU and the BPA is encouraging policymakers to review how ports and coastal developers are regulated. There will also be opportunities to reach outside the industry and build in ‘Free Port’ free trade area designations into this where appropriate.”
Ballantyne highlighted the opportunity this presents, saying:
“Ports rely on good hinterland connections but in recent years much of the public investment in transport has been allocated to passenger schemes. Last year the UK Department for Transport published its Port Connectivity Study, which was an excellent initiative assessing the transport needs of English ports. In 2019 we will be pressing the Government to prioritise transport spending on issues identified in the Study and encouraging the devolved administrations around the UK to consider similar initiatives. This covers links to major transport arteries in the Road Investment Strategy and particular challenges such as ‘last mile’ connections to ports.
We have called for a new UK freight strategy and are working closely with the National Infrastructure Commission on the development of their freight study and the Scottish National Transport Strategy Review, which we hope will lead to renewed focus on freight in terms of transport policy. Alongside this we are also encouraging Government to put in place a coastal shipping policy.”
The BPA has also been promoting the sector outside the industry, with briefings, infographics, promotional videos and events for politicians. The Department for Transport is expected to publish the results of its Maritime 2050 review which looks at the future of the maritime sector out to 2050. This and the ongoing BPA Port Futures programme will provide opportunities for the BPA to highlight the role that ports play in the exciting and innovative future of the UK maritime sector.
In 2019 the BPA will be examining safety and skills at ports, supporting the working of the industry body Port Skills and Safety which leads on training and landside safety issues for ports. The BPA will also be undertaking promotional work to highlight the role that port employees undertake and Mr Ballantyne continued:
“We will shortly be launching a new ‘People in Ports’ initiative. This will explore the different roles that ports provide and highlight examples from individuals who undertake various jobs at various types of ports around the UK. 101,000 people are employed by UK ports and we are keen to highlight the variety roles they undertake and share their personal experiences.”
In terms of maritime safety, the BPA recently called on the international shipping industry to encourage action on recurring issues such as defective pilot ladders and dangerously weighted heaving lines. Mr Ballantyne is hopeful that in 2019 there is progress overcoming these and other issues such as the ‘definition of a ship’ legal anomaly to aid enforcement of personal watercraft inside ports and the end of the exemption for drink drive alcohol limits for non-professional mariners.
In recent years environmental issues have become important features on the political agenda. Priorities for the BPA this year will be working with Government regulators on challenges some ports face in respect to consenting in designated areas and new air quality reporting requirements for ports. The UK ports industry will also have to prepare for the introduction of the bureaucratic European Port Services Regulation, despite our imminent departure from the EU.
The Association represents all of top UK fishing ports and is looking to encourage policy makers to ensure new quota rules include obligations to land fish into the UK to allow fishing communities and industries around UK ports to thrive. A new UK Fisheries Bill will provide the framework for a new fisheries policy that we hope will allow this to happen.
As well as the continued policy and lobbying activity the BPA will further roll-out its regional governance and duty holder training sessions on issues such as safety and strategy for all types of ports as well as facilitating internal industry benchmarking initiatives.
Finally, the Association is also very much looking forward to this year’s Annual BPA Conference, which will be hosted by Belfast Harbour on 16th & 17th October 2019. This is one of the BPA’s showpiece events and an unrivalled occasion when the UK’s diverse range of ports comes together to share and discuss emerging ideas, practices and policies that affect the industry.