BPA 2020: Sustainability to overtake Brexit as main focus for ports industry?

The British Ports Association (BPA) outlines key priorities for 2020: Sustainability, energy transition, regional growth, connectivity, innovation, safety, people & skills, regulatory review and port ‘impact’ to be major themes.

The British Ports Association has issued its annual New Year’s message picking out some expected highlights for UK port authorities and operators in 2020. Whilst the terms of the Brexit deal will no doubt continue to dominate, the BPA – the national association for ports, harbours and terminals – is keen to influence the new UK Government and policy makers around the UK in a range of important areas.

Brexit, Free Ports & Maritime 2050

The Association’s Chief Executive, Richard Ballantyne, said:

“2020 could be a pivotal year for ports. The passed the EU Withdrawal Agreement will see the UK diverging from European customs rules meaning new border controls for freight operators. This will be a major challenge for parts of the UK logistics sector including those on the Irish Sea, so working with the Government to ensure additional costs and delays are kept to a minimum will be central to our discussions with officials. There will of course be potential opportunities to influence the expected deregulation drive which may include shaping any new infrastructure and fisheries funding, as well as State Aid rules and port service regulations.

We also expect the Government to press ahead with a Free Ports policy so encouraging an inclusive port zoning strategy, looking at how ports of all type and location will feature in national and regional growth strategies will be central. Separately working with the UK Government and devolved administrations, as well as implementing some of the previously considered strategies such as Maritime 2050 in England and others in the rest of the UK, will be key themes for the BPA this year.”

Sustainability, Planning, and the Energy Transition

The BPA’s team outlined some specific points. The BPA’s Head of Policy and External Affairs, Mark Simmonds, who leads on the Association’s sustainability agenda, said:

“For many, 2020 is the year of the sulphur cap but the focus on air emissions from ports and shipping more widely will continue to grow. Whilst Brexit has dominated the headlines for years, sustainability has been the issue that affects all ports and it will be near the top of the political agenda for the next decade – whether it’s emissions, planning rules or marine litter. This presents huge challenges for ports and sustainability and the environment will be a particular focus for the BPA this year. More generally, the energy transition will continue to change the way ports operate as some cargoes decline or fall away completely whilst new ones appear and offshore renewables becomes ever more important to the sector. Finally, a ‘new’ UK Government, Brexit and any potential economic fallout may mean that the industry’s ideas for improving the planning and consenting regimes for ports start to be heard with more interest in Westminster, Holyrood, Cardiff Bay and Stormont.”

Infrastructure and Connectivity

In terms of wider transport and economic policies, Phoebe Warneford-Thomson, Policy and Economic Analyst, at the BPA highlighted the important economic role that ports play in providing jobs and industry in often deprived UK regions. Highlighting how Government and local authorities can support port growth she said:

“2020 is a year of real opportunity for ports. However national, regional and local planners will need to prioritise port transport and infrastructure needs in order for the sector to realise new projects and developments. While UK cargo figures did slow somewhat last year, other types of port business are thriving. Notably, ports remain a fundamental component of UK tourism as the popularity of marine leisure continues to grow. UK cruise passenger numbers also increased by 15% to 2.2 million last year, in continuation of the significant upward trend in recent years and we expect to see continue in 2020 along with other trends such as in relation to growing and supplying offshore renewables and wind energy developments. In addition, the BPA will also be heavily focusing on transport connectivity for ports this year as we host the first Port Connectivity Summit in March, to focus attention on the investment needed to better integrate ports into the wider transport infrastructure and we will also be renewing calls for a new UK Freight Strategy to help UK ports be more agile and competitive.”

As well as being the voice of the UK ports industry, the BPA acts as a forum for discussion and collaboration, bringing the sector together throughout the year. The Association’s successful and expanding programme of annual events are already planned for 2020:

• The Association’s Annual Lunch in London this April;
• Our unrivalled Annual Conference which will be hosted by Aberdeen Harbour Board on 14 & 15 October;
• Receptions for politicians and industry to meet in the House of Commons, Holyrood and the Senydd; and
• focussed regional events around the UK, including one-off targeted seminars such as the Port Connectivity Summit, and Decarbonising Ports & Shipping conference which is a joint event with the UK Chamber of Shipping being held on 9 January; as well as
• governance and duty holder training for our port members and their board members.

The BPA has also been working alongside various members and associate members by collating short reports on innovation and trends as part of its ‘Port Futures’ programme. Recent examples have examined digitalisation, autonomous shipping and master planning and further projects will be launched this year.

Alongside these, maintaining and growing the Association’s network and influence, as well as the promotion of best practise from other industries on issues such as safety will be important for 2020 and the BPA’s Corporate Services Manager, Sara Walsh added:

“We will also be looking to expand our membership to terminals and port operators as we feel it’s important that they have a voice and are represented within the maritime sector. On safety, we will continue to work with and support our colleagues at Port Skills and Safety on work such as improving safety culture and performance at ports, including sharing of best practices and lessons learned both inside and outside the sector. On marine safety we will underline specific asks on the introduction of alcohol limits for recreational mariners, raise awareness of the dangers of dangerously weighted heaving lines and defective pilot ladders; and of course promote compliance with the Port Marine Safety Code, which is expected to be reviewed shortly.”

With the launch of a new UK-wide Maritime Skills Commission, the Maritime UK Women in Maritime initiative and the success of the Maritime career’s hub at London International Shipping Week 2019, the BPA will continue to take a leading role at career events, forums and school outreach sessions promoting maritime careers. The BPA’s Office Manager, Shenaz Bussawon, who has taken a lead on skills and careers, highlighted:

“There continues to be a lack of awareness about port and maritime career opportunities. In 2020 we will be promoting more events and highlighting the importance of reaching out to primary and secondary school children as well as university students. We will also be launching our ‘People in Ports’ initiative which shall give insight into the wide range of careers opportunities available at UK ports.”

Source: British Ports Association website

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