BPA: More than one in ten port regulations in need of urgent reform

The British Ports Association (BPA) has mapped out some of the most important pieces of legislation and regulation that affect ports and rated their suitability to the industry.

Port of Rotterdam; Illustration; Image by Offshore Energy

The regulatory assessment identified 140 regulations, codes, and laws that affect ports. According to BPA, 12% of these were rated ‘red’ – in need of urgent or major changes.

Nearly half of the 17 regulations identified as needing major or urgent change are linked to sustainability and planning, although half of the sustainability-linked regulations were ranked ‘green’ as fit for purpose.

“The BPA supports robust regulatory standards for the industry and in each case supports the aim of the regulations, but would like to see reform to see them work better for both industry and the environment,” the association explained.

Mark Simmonds, Director of Policy at the British Ports Association said that mapping port regulation is usually about identifying areas where policy and legal frameworks can be improved rather than removed.

“For some of these issues, like closing the loophole allowing recreational sailors to drink alcohol whilst navigating vessels, we have been asking for a resolution for years. Others, like the incoming changes to terrestrial development in England, have not come into force yet but will have a major impact on ports. A fast and efficient marine and terrestrial planning framework is critical to ports’ competitiveness and it is no surprise that planning issues top the list of concerns,” Simmonds added.

“This exercise reveals the complexity of the broader regulatory framework that ports operate under. More and more of this is put in place by government departments other than the Department for Transport or their devolved equivalents. This often means that officials are building policy frameworks without the expertise of specialists in DfT. The ports industry must therefore work harder to ensure its voice is heard across government and, increasingly, in Parliament.”

The BPA said it would continue to pursue these priorities as part of its objectives for 2023 and beyond with governments across the UK.

Some of the urgent or major changes required include the need to simplify the approach to delivering biodiversity net gain in the intertidal area in England, making clear environmental gains on the dredge disposal action levels, entrance into force of the law to ban recreational boaters from navigating vessels whilst under the influence of alcohol, reform of marine licensing etc.

“Many of the biggest concerns revealed by this exercise are regulations that put a brake on sustainable development such as the system for securing new energy capacity for ports. This is crucial to support maritime decarbonisation. Marine licensing is another area that is marked in need of urgent improvement; the system needs improvement but also proper resourcing from governments and this will be critical if ports are to build the infrastructure needed to support the UK’s ambitions for offshore wind,” BPA said.