British ports resilient but still wary of ‘no-deal’ impacts

Resilience planning is under way and UK ports have been working constructively with the Government to explore ways to mitigate the possible cross border issues that might arise at Roll-on Roll-off ports in the short term, in the event of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit. However there are still concerns about the level of preparedness of the wider logistics sector and what the impact of a ‘no-deal’ might mean for the economy following the publication of the Government’s Brexit economic impact assessments. This week also saw the UK Prime Minister introduce measures in Parliament allowing for a possible short extension of the Brexit Article 50 deadline.

Commenting on the developments in Westminster and following a meeting with Transport Secretary Chris Grayling and Ports and Shipping Minister Nusrat Ghani to discuss ports’ Brexit preparedness, the British Ports Association’ Chief Executive, Richard Ballantyne said:

“These are unprecedented times and the level of Government emergency planning in our sector is cranking up. We would hope that all parts of Government are working together and sharing information when it comes to resilience planning. Local Resilience Forums are key organisations in bringing together commercial operators and public agencies to ensure that all are working together and with the same understanding. Some of the Government’s planning assumptions need refinement but there is certainly a good dialogue locally.

In terms of attempts to avoid post Brexit disruption, Government officials have certainly listened to industry. On the whole they have made a laudable effort to put in place pragmatic processes that will help mitigate disruption in a ‘no-deal’ scenario but the wider impact assessments released by the Government include some stark warnings about the economy. If the economy slows down, people and businesses buy, build, manufacture and invest less which typically leads to a slow down in trade. There are also concerns that the wider logistics industry and traders might not be ready and we welcome moves to allow them to prepare.”

The Government’s Brexit impact assessment estimates that the UK economy would be between 6.3% to 9% smaller in the long term in a no deal scenario. There could also be significant variation across the UK (Wales -8.1%, Scotland -8.0%, Northern Ireland -9.1% and the North East of England -10.5%).

Noting a report published by the shipping consultants Drewry on the impacts of Brexit Mr Ballantyne said:

“The Drewry study shows there is certainly resilience in UK-EU short sea market but it highlights that while many of the Government’s mitigation measures should help Roll-on Roll-off ferry traffic flow, some of these customs arrangements and systems are untested. It also demonstrates that potential traffic peaks could need to be managed underlining the importance of the regional resilience planning exercises.”