Benefits outweigh downsides of Brexit
Overwhelming focus on the negative impacts of Brexit on UK and EU ports has eclipsed positive outcomes of the ongoing process of Britain’s departure from the European Union.
Speaking at the UK Ports Conference, a number of panellists spoke of the operational benefits and opportunities of Brexit.
Oxera partner Andrew Meaney praised the development of better working relationships between ports and governments as a direct result of Brexit. He said that ports within the UK and EU are “in a pretty decent place” and that there's “a lot of reasons to be cheerful”.
Even though the sector is plagued with uncertainty as a result of the departure deal being negotiated, ports now have close working relationships with government that were not there three to four years ago, he said. “That's a positive.”
Chantal McRoberts, principal consultant at Drewry Maritime Advisors, pointed out that there is spare port capacity in the UK which could be seen as an opportunity for shifting cargo flows from traditional UK import hubs, which would relieve pressure.
“If I were certain ports, I would be out there meeting and marketing that opportunity for that risk management option,” she said. “There is some flex in the system. Dover is not the be-all and end-all.”
UK Major Ports Group chief executive Tim Morris agreed that customers are now re-thinking supply chains which could bring opportunities in volume light, but value rich areas. “It's possible we'll see a future that’s a lot more about value rather than volume growth,” he said.
Meanwhile, Nick Clarke, global service line director for ports, marine and waterways at Ramboll, said that the key to making the best use of the opportunities presented by Brexit is for ports to be “flexible, prepared and able to deliver”. He added that masterplanning and being ready with consenting will be critical in how well ports adapt to this changing market.
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