Freight News, Sea

Ports call for help to fight corona virus

[ February 28, 2020   //   ]

The British Ports Association (BPA) has written to the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, asking for more support for port health authorities to prevent a spread of the corona virus.
Chief executive Richard Ballantyne asked the government to find additional resources to prepare for any emergency controls that need to be implemented. The BPA has also noted that some UK ports feel they have been put in the position of having to make decisions on health matters for which they are not qualified.
In the UK, port health authorities, who are managed and resourced by local authorities, are responsible for developing health controls at seaports and airports and are tasked with preventing dangerous epidemic diseases through shipping without creating unnecessary disruptions to trade.
Richard Ballantyne said: The current risks from direct traffic arriving from Chinese ports is relatively low given the typical 30-40 day sailing time between UK and Asia, especially as Far East trade is forecast to slow somewhat in the coming weeks. However, ports are acting vigilantly and as the virus appears now to be spreading around Europe, the sector is bracing itself for new risks and challenges. Short sea sailings and flights could be subject to new measures but some UK port health authorities are frantically attempting to prepare.
“Our members have excellent local relationships with port health authorities and are working closely together but it appears that many of these bodies need additional assistance. We have also raised concerns over ports being put in the position of having to make decisions on health matters for which they are not qualified. Our gateways need to keep open and trading but they do need some appropriate support. Whether this be clear guidance from government in regards to shipping movements from high risk regions, or medical officers giving individual case by case advice.”
Earlier, BPA member Hill Dickinson said in a paper that a serious outbreak of the coronavirus in a UK port cannot be ruled out.
Tony McDonach, legal director at the law firm said: The threats to the UK ports industry from the novel coronavirus are not immediate but they are nevertheless real. The number of reported cases in the UK is but growing.”
The paper said that a port with a quarantined ship or ships alongside could be designated as unsafe under maritime law.
The BPA and Department for Transport have also prepared a guidance note for UK ports.
BPA chief executive, Richard Ballantyne added that the outbreak was also having an impact on trade flows with a suggested six million fewer container shipping movements globally in the first three months of 2020, with China-Europe trade is expected to fall by 20%.
The coronavirus has caused some disruptions at Chinese ports due to the lack of stevedores and truck drivers, which has slowed down vessel turnaround times.