British Ports Association

Weekly Snapshot

Our five minute roundup of key topics affecting UK ports sector this week
LISW beckons but don’t mention the Ever Given!
Colleagues are bracing themselves for a packed London International Shipping Week, starting from Monday. How ‘international’ it will be this year remains to be seen but we’re looking forward to catching up with people in person for the first time in a while. We’re excited to be launching a new film at the IMO on Monday evening: Gateways to Growth, exploring some of the broad range of ports we proudly represent. More details next week!

We’re also holding our online Coastal Shipping Seminar and an exciting Ports and Colleges briefing event on LISW’s careers day, which should be useful to look at developments in our sector. There is plenty of space at both these online events and they are free to attend so please feel free to get involved and register!

Meanwhile this week the domestic agenda continues and BPA’s Scottish Ports Group and Regional Ports Group both met this week. We’ve had lots to discuss a wide range of issues, from the latest environmental updates to dealing with abandoned vessels.

We also attended a really interesting cross government and industry resilience exercise this week looking at what would happen if there was a major shipping incident at, in this case, a major container port.

The Department for Transport led this but there were a range of speakers ranging from the SOSREP to industry insurance specialists which looked at immediate casualty response, salvage and lasting operational and trading impacts. The next step is to prepare guidance and given the wide number of players it looks as though further work will be undertaken, potentially looking at other maritime activities as well.

Meanwhile somebody at the Suez Canal has been doing a similar piece of work as a ship that grounded briefly this week, caused some media excitement. Fortunately it was able to quickly get underway again and traffic continued to flow!

Mark Simmonds
British Ports Association
UK Government Spending Review

On Tuesday 7th September, Rishi Sunak confirmed details surrounding the next Spending Review; The process by which the UK Government sets out their capital spending framework for the next three years. Departments have until Monday 13th to submit their proposals, with the final allocations due to be released on 27th October 2021.

Despite the short timeframe, we have already been in contact with officials at the DfT to prioritise our sector’s requests on transport, green infrastructure, and suitable government resourcing.
Many may recall that we were involved in several preparations for a postponed review in 2020 so we have been able to revive that work and adapt where appropriate. As always, we welcome feedback from our membership before the submission deadline in a few days. For a more detailed view of the Government’s priorities, the Chancellor’s letter to the Westminster departments is attached.
Port Freight and Short-Sea Passengers
In more Government news, the Department for Transport recently published the port freight statistics for Q2 2021. The data reveals some positive signs of economic recovery despite the continuing Covid pandemic and newly introduced post-Brexit processes impacting UK-EU traffic. However, this cannot be considered a return to ‘normal’ levels as these figures were formed in comparison to Q2 2020. The data can be accessed here, together with a BPA analysis of the figures which can be found here.
Alongside the port freight statistics, the Department of Transport also published the short-sea passenger numbers for July 2021. In spite of a relaxation of Covid restrictions over the summer, July 2021 short-sea passenger volumes (511,00) denote a fall of 33% compared to July 2020 numbers (768,00). However, when compared to inbound and outbound figures from July 2019, the data indicates a fall of 78% (2,355,000). This suggests a slow recovery ahead to reach pre-pandemic numbers. For a more detailed view of how 2019, 2020, and 2021 short-sea passenger numbers compare, a graph is available here.
When is a ship not a ship?!
Enforcement by harbour authorities and others against jet skis has been an issue for some time but finally, this week the DfT published a consultation to assign the same laws and regulations as ships to personal and recreational watercraft. Until now, craft such as jet skis fell into a legal grey area as they fell outside the definition of what is classed as a ship. This led local authorities, ports and harbours around the UK facing difficulties in the way they deal with risks in this area and even potential collisions involving personal watercraft. Since the beginning of 2020, there have tragically been a number of fatalities involving jet skis.
We welcomed this news from the DfT although there are things to consider. The BPA’s Richard Ballantyne also commented: “A national approach to solve this issue is needed and are delighted to have become members of the pan industry Personal Watercraft Partnership last year… While introducing new legislation may not address all safety and security problems, it would go a long way in ensuring jet skis are operated responsibly, and ultimately protect all types of leisure and marine users who visit out coastlines”.
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