British Ports Association

Weekly Snapshot

Our five minute roundup of key topics affecting UK ports sector this week
Jumping ship!

Thought I would start by introducing myself. Until recently I worked for the UK Chamber of Shipping but have now joined the BPA, taking over from Sara Walsh. I am delighted to join the Ports side of the office at Park Street and look forward to getting to know our members and ensure that we continue to do our best to meet your needs. I am sure you will tell me otherwise!

In other news this week, Covid-19 continues to dominate; is the new Delta-plus mutation the most infectious strain yet? With Downing Street facing pressure from NHS bosses to reintroduce measures in order to manage the UK’s rising coronavirus cases, calling for mandatory mask-wearing and Covid passports, No. 10 remains reluctant to commit despite infections peaking at 49,156 cases on Monday. All we can do is remain cautious and alert.

On a brighter note, congratulations to DP World UK for wining the Multimodal Port Operator of the Year award, presented in Birmingham by our very own Richard Ballantyne.

Finally, we extend our condolences to the family of MP Sir David Amess following his tragic death in his Essex constituency last Friday. A stark reminder of the world we live in.

Eileen Salmon
British Ports Association

Sustainability 

In the run up to the COP26 UN Climate Change conference in Glasgow next month, at which the BPA will be present even if the presidents of China and Russia aren’t, this week the UK Government published its 'Net Zero' strategy. We are pleased to see a new commitment to a multi-year maritime funding programme to succeed the £20m clean maritime demonstration competition.

The strategy includes an "aim" to fully decarbonise energy provision and system by 2035 and a target for 40GW of offshore wind by 2030. This includes building 1GW of floating offshore wind by 2030 and 5GW of hydrogen production capacity by 2030 while halving oil and gas emissions. You can read the BPA’s summary here.

Separately in terms of ports and sustainability, we were also in Athens this week at the GreenPort Congress with an impressive array of industry colleagues from ports across Europe and beyond. Shore power remains flavour of the month in European 'green' port circles but there was plenty of wider discussion on the electrification of port equipment, digitalisation and future shipping fuels. We were pleased to see dedicated discussions on smaller port environmental issues as well and hear directly from the shipping industry with presentations from MSC Cruises and Wallenius Wilhelmsen.
Freight & logistics 

We attended and spoke at the Multimodal logistics exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham this week and it was great to see a number of BPA members attending and exhibiting.

This was the first time the expo has been held since 2019 as last year’s event was cancelled due to the pandemic and there was definitely a buzz around the venue. It was a particularly lively Multimodal Awards Dinner on the first night as during guest speaker and ex footballer Kevin Keegan’s headline appearance a fire alarm meant the 800 attendees and staff had to temporarily exit the venue down five flights of stairs and assemble outside in the pouring rain!

This didn’t dampen the evening though as the Awards ceremony was eventually facilitated by the former England Manager. The BPA sponsored and presented the Port Operator of the Year Award, which, following a public vote was won by DP World UK, who we offer our congratulations and best wishes to. Also a special mention to DP World’s UK Commercial Director, Aart Hille Ris Lambers, who was named Multimodal 2021 Personality of the Year. Well done Aart!

Separately as the government began consulting on one of the measures to help mitigate the current HGV driver shortages around cabotage rules, yesterday the DfT convened a meeting with deep sea logistics operators which was chaired by the UK Maritime Minister Robert Courts MP.

This was a useful update on the situation on the container sector and also included some basic asks from industry. There was also some discussion about how long the global issues will last affecting the Lo-Lo sector will last and domestic storage pressures, which now looks like it could be late next year or even well into 2023 before the sector is back to “normal”. 

Finally underling the national issue, this week the Office for National Statistics published data which showed that the number of people employed as HGV drivers in the UK has fallen by 53,000 in four years. Read the BPA’s summary here
Mixed Business Outlook For Ports 
 
The BPA surveyed ports during October 2021 to gather data on the current levels of business confidence within ports.

The results indicate that despite recent supply chain pressures and energy and economic concerns, ‘business as usual’ activity endures amongst port operators. 

The data reveals that most ports are at least tentatively confident about their business outlook in the coming 12 months, though a quarter does not feel confident at all. 

The results overall reflect a duality of two overriding moods amongst the industry - one of optimism and opportunity - and another of caution and uncertainty. When asked to summarise outlook for 2021-22 in a word or sentence, the words ‘positive’ and ‘uncertain’ were the most popular responses, both mentioned in equal measure. These were followed by mention of ‘opportunities’ and ‘caution’.

The survey also looked at what ports are thinking about and what the challenges would be for the coming year. Of the top concerns cited by ports, Brexit was the most common answer by far. This was followed by a lack of investment. Climate change, port congestion, a lack of HGV drivers, the NI Protocol and the future of the fishing industry were common themes of concern.

The full results can be read here
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