Categories: British Ports Association, NewsPublished On: 14.04.2020762 words3.8 min read

“Ports and their workers, who are keeping imports of foods, essential products, energy and fuel coming into the country during the current coronavirus situation are unsung heros. We have a wide variety of ports across the UK that facilitate a range of activities, including trade, energy provision and tourism. They also provide important hubs of economic activity and jobs in often deprived coastal communities.

The Key Workers across the UK include those in the ports, shipping and logistics industries who are literally ensuring the nation is fed and supplied, and helping us overcome Covid-19. However to continue to do this, UK ports do need some assistance from policy makers.

Ports like other organisations and businesses performing critical roles in the country need PPE and testing capabilities to keep their workforce’s resilient. Many operators in our ports industry will also need to access assistance from the Government’s financial support schemes and this assistance could be needed well after the lockdown finishes. With people suffering in hospitals and self-isolating to protect those most at risk it seems insensitive to say that the lockdown, oil prices and impacts on shipping and maritime markets will leave the economy in a critical condition.

Those across Government are of course doing their best to protect the country’s population from both the health risks and potential negative economic impacts. There will be many competing requests and pleas from industry but the needs of ports need to be heard. To come through these challenges we will need to keep the country supplied and maintain our significant volumes of internal trade and this means ensuring the ports industry survives in tact.

Unlike some other industries, most ports are unable to drop all their tools, close their gates, or lay up ships. Even reducing services is difficult for port businesses as have many fixed costs and while some can furlough staff, many port functions must continue. Even when shipping and maritime activities reduce dramatically, ports must ensure all services are maintained, such as managing marine operations, keeping channels dredged and quays manned, often with a full suite of staff. Presently are not only seeing a substantial impact on their customer activity and a reduction in their workforce but facing requests for ‘rent holidays, from tenants and a reduction in harbour and cargo dues from port users. This means those in power do need to provide additional support and resources to ports.

As well as industry, we understand this is a challenging time for individuals, who may be facing the detrimental impacts of enforced isolation or with unwell family members, and we offer our deepest sympathies to those affected.

The health of the shipping industry and the wider economy is inherently linked to the prosperity of a port and we support wider economic measures to ensure stability. However, global trade and global maritime traffic flows are inextricably linked, and UK ports perform a critical role for importers, exporters and intra-UK supply chains, so government must ensure there are measures in place to ensure ports can continue to play a key role in facilitating UK supply chains, and keeping supermarket shelves stocked, but also in the UK’s economic recovery from this crisis.

The British Ports Association represents over 100 members, who own and operate around 400 terminals and facilities, accounting for 86% of port tonnages and 85% of all vessel calls. We also represent all the UK’s passenger ports and all the main energy gateways, the top 20 fishing ports and an extensive network of ports and harbours that facilitate over one million leisure craft and yachts.

Many of these ports are limiting the numbers of staff needed on-site, some taking advantage of furloughing. But still, a significant amount of the 115,000 people who are employed in the ports industry need PPE and testing capabilities, and operators will need some type of help and flexibility from exiting lenders to ensure they remain liquid. The ports are however still open and keeping us supplied, but let’s make sure this doesn’t change.”

The British Ports Association is involved in various discussions with government and on a range industry calls regarding the impact of the pandemic, as well as being in constant communication with members. Although currently there are no publicly available ‘real-time’ statistics, the BPA’s Policy & Economic Analyst, Phoebe Warneford-Thomson has been assessing the impacts and she has prepared a snapshot of activity below. This includes analysis of the current situation and some detail on each sector within our industry.

Impacts on Ports – a snapshot . . . . 

. . . . continue reading on the BPA website here