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More funds for post-Brexit ports

[ August 30, 2019   //   ]

The Department for Transport is calling on ports in England to bid for a share of £10 million funding to help them cope with Brexit as part of the Port Infrastructure Resilience and Connectivity (PIRC) competition.

The competition will be open until 6 September, after which successful bidders will be given up to £1 million each to deliver infrastructure improvements such as extra HGV parking and container storage space or improved traffic systems.

A further £15 million will go towards longer-term projects to boost road and rail links to ports and the government is providing £5 million to four key Local Resilience Forums (LRFs) – made up of emergency responders, councils and other public services – in areas with key freight ports – targeted specifically at delivering infrastructure improvements to manage road traffic around maritime ports with important trade routes with the EU.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “We are leaving the EU on 31 October and we will be prepared whatever the circumstances. As the UK continues to develop as an outward-facing global trading nation ready for a post-Brexit world, the resilience of our trading hubs is more critical than ever before.”

This £30 million investment supports our ports in their work to boost capacity and efficiency, ensuring they’re ready for Brexit and a successful future.

The £5 million funds are separate from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s recently announced £9 million scheme for local councils and LRFs to support their overall planning for Brexit in areas with major air, land or sea ports and the Freight Capacity Framework initiative to secure ferry capacity for urgent goods such as medicines.

The Department for Transport says it has also started a multi-channel information campaign to ensure hauliers have the documents they need to carry goods into the EU.

UK Major Ports Group chief executive Tim Morris said that while he welcomed any support for investment in ports, “we must be realistic about the extent of physical change possible between now and the end of October. The Port Infrastructure Resilience and Connectivity (PIRC) Fund could make a difference at some locations and circumstances, particularly if it applied to storage and areas adjacent to core port operations. But it can’t be seen as a silver bullet for the risk of no-deal disruption and £10 million should be seen in the context of the more than £600 million UK port operators invest each year.”

He added that it was essential that the announcement is not just a one-off but is part of an ongoing commitment to strengthening the UK’s ports post Brexit through improving planning rules and road and rail connectivity.

British Ports Association chief executive, Richard Ballantyne added: “British ports have been working closely with the UK Government for the last three years on a range of Brexit scenarios. The industry is as ready as it can be for a ‘no deal’ although it is clear that this is about mitigating disruption at certain ports, not avoiding it.
“The potential challenges are not only for the likes of Dover but also other ports such as Holyhead, Immingham and Portsmouth that handle a mix of driven and unaccompanied vehicle freight between the UK and the EU, which currently flows through ports swiftly. There could also be wider issues for other ports which will rely on the HMRC’s systems to handle a huge increase in customs data.”

Ballantyne said that it was also important that freight forwarders, hauliers, agents and Government agencies were ready for unprecedented change, possibly with little or no notice.

He concluded: “A ‘no deal’ would certainly appear to be more of a possibility now and it is prudent to plan for this potential outcome. However while we are not a political organisation we remain firmly of the view that a deal that supports frictionless, free-flowing frontiers is the best outcome and as far as we are aware this is still the Government’s aim. We still hope that the UK and EU can come to a sensible arrangement ahead of the deadline.”

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