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UK ports: use capacity all around the coast

12 October 2020: With new border processes and controls approaching regardless of any deal with the EU it is critical that the UK prepares now, urges UK Major Ports Group.

Risks of delays and congestion can be reduced after the EU transition period if freight volumes use more of the available capacity at other UK ports outside of the France-Kent corridor.

“We urge cargo owners to intensify their preparations for the new border checks and systems that are coming and carefully review their supply chain options, while government must provide adequate border infrastructure and maintain a level playing field for ports across the UK,” says Tim Morris, CEO of UK Major Ports Group (UKMPG).

“There are ports all around our coast able and willing to bolster the UK’s trading capacity,” Morris continues. “Realising this additional resilience capacity will deliver crucial benefits to the UK in keeping trade flowing in the short and longer terms, as well as contributing important environmental improvements.”

Morris’s comments follow the publication of its report ‘Maximising EU/UK trade resilience through making the most of the UK’s ports’. This points out that the UK’s port sector has significant capacity to handle more EU-UK trade, an additional 60% of 2018 traffic. This would improve the UK’s strategic supply resilience, spread economic activity around the UK and bring important environmental benefits post-Brexit

The UK Major Ports Group is the voice for the UK’s largest port operators. Its report finds that the UK port sector has significant additional resilience capacity for handling freight flows to and from the European Union after the UK’s departure, if freight flows diversify their entry points to the UK. UK ports outside the so-called ‘Shorts Straits’ of the English Channel (via Calais-Dover, in particular) offer significant additional capacity for handling EU-UK freight flows.

The report estimates that there could be a 22-60% switch in freight volumes to other UK gateways. It also highlights the opportunities for supply chains to adapt, maximising the UK’s additional port capacity.

Highlighting upcoming changes in border arrangements for the movement of freight, the study reflects that the UK will also have to rely on the exports passing through the EU’s customs and border inspection procedures to avoid delays in the UK. This could lead to the disruption of supply chains in both directions, emphasising the importance of diversifying freight transport across multiple ports.

The report also outlines environmental benefits from a switch of traffic to a wider network of ports, often closer to the end customer across the UK. 

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