Richard Ballantyne - British Ports Association

"2021 could see a bounce back from the various impacts that affected the UK and global economy last year"

The British Ports Association’s Chief Executive outlines what the agenda for UK ports will look like during 2021

The British Ports Association (BPA), which represents 86% of UK port freight activities around the UK, sees the UK’s new trading relationship with the EU bedding in and the mass roll-out of the coronavirus vaccine beginning. However UK ports might well be looking at a different policy agenda by the end of the year. A sustainable growth agenda and promoting the value of ports and their varied activities will be at the heart of the Association’s work over the next 12 months.

Commenting on the year ahead, the BPA’s Chief Executive, Richard Ballantyne, said:

”As we move into the New Year, many ports are still dealing with the impacts of coronavirus, in terms of day-to-day port operations and also a revised business environment. The potential for further restrictions and national lockdowns are daunting indeed. However, despite the obvious changes for those operators handling EU freight, 2021 could see a bounce back from the various impacts that affected the UK and global economy last year. In the short term, keeping the industry resilient and ports open could mean getting essential workers at ports up the queue just behind health workers, the clinically vulnerable and the elderly, in terms of the roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Moving forward, ports can definitely be part of the solution as the country recovers. The government has been clear about aspirations for it’s ‘levelling up’ agenda which will include a Freeports strategy but we expect to see another stimulus as well. Freeports is just one tool which will only target a limited number of particular locations. We will be encouraging policymakers to look at other mechanisms which will benefit all regions in respect to infrastructure and the regulatory environment.”

Prior to the pandemic, early last year the BPA was expecting sustainability and the energy transition to play a pivotal role across the UK ports sector. However, the impacts of coronavirus drew the focus of the government and industry’s attention elsewhere. A much mooted green recovery is now an attractive proposition for politicians but what they actually might mean for ports is still open for some debate.

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