BPA: Gov’t investing in UK ports should be top priority

Decarbonisation, innovation, infrastructure, freeports and properly functioning and resourced regulators are key asks for future government spending, set out in a letter to the UK Chancellor from the ports industry on 24 September, the British Ports Association (BPA) said.


With EU Exit imminent, the BPA has also called for funding to future-proof the sector. As a member of umbrella group Maritime UK, the BPA’s submission complements MUK’s submission, which calls for a £1bn maritime decarbonisation programme.

Whilst the ‘comprehensive spending review’ may be on ice for another year, according to reports, the BPA delivered its submission to the Treasury on Thursday noting that reforms putting ports at the heart of regional economies “should not be delayed”.

Specifically, the industry requests from the government:

  • Transport: Government to deliver on the recommendations of the Department for Transport’s Port Connectivity Study. Funding for local authorities to better manage and maintain critical last mile connections to ports. Replacement of the European Maritime Fisheries Fund (EMFF).
  • Infrastructure: A multi-year green maritime fund to support the specific and significant challenges to meet the sector’s decarbonisation and environmental commitments as part of a wider £1bn maritime decarbonisation programme. A UK Infrastructure Bank to provide consistent credit and anchor investments.

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  • Planning: Review of port planning and consenting regimes. Grant access for all ports to a new planning regime, regardless of freeport status. Extension of Capital Allowances for port infrastructure.
  • Innovation: Continued support from government to achieve ‘Maritime 2050’ targets.
  • A supportive and enabling regulatory system: licensing authorities and regulators must have the resources they need to function effectively. This is key to enabling sustainable development.

“Whilst the Chancellor may understandably delay this process due to continuing uncertainty from COVID-19, we hope the Government does not take its eye off decarbonisation and climate change, which is an urgent challenge,” Mark Simmonds, Head of Policy and External Affairs at the British Ports Association and Chair of Maritime UK’s Policy Working Group said.

“The asks we have submitted to government in these five key areas cannot afford to wait another year. Regardless of what process the government chooses to examine its spending this year, it must recognise the importance of the maritime sector and the role it plays in supporting jobs and prosperity in coastal communities and also the tight timelines for meeting expectations around net zero.”

In return, BPA said the industry will provide hubs of economic activity, jobs and investment in port regions around our coastline; an efficient, market-led ports sector responsive to users and contributing to the economy; a responsible industry which strives to minimise environmental impacts and information to regional and national planners about how to stimulate maritime activity. What is more, the industry will provide modern infrastructure and facilities for the UK’s international trade, offshore fuel and energy generation, maritime and shipping services, marine tourism and recreation, as well as hubs for the fishing industry; a network of responsible UK anchored companies committed to their businesses, high standards of marine and landside safety as well as skilled jobs and a well-qualified and trained workforce. Furthermore, the BPA is to provide governance and safety briefings to ports and duty holders and to support the work of Port Skills and Safety in driving up standards across the sector.

“This submission reiterates the critical importance of public investment in transport infrastructure in supporting ports, both directly and indirectly. The Government has set out its ambitions to ‘build, build. build’ and will hopefully recognise that this is now more important than it was before the pandemic,” Phoebe Warneford-Thomson, Policy and Economic Analyst at the BPA, commented.

“The industry is excited to proceed with implementing the Government’s freeports programme. We have warned again today, however, that an arbitrary cap is unnecessary and potentially divisive. There should be no limit on ambition or good ideas that support innovation and prosperity in our coastal communities.”