Brexit ‘noise’ frustration for UK ports

British ports are being frustrated in their day-to-day operations by “the noise of Brexit”, according to a leading port spokesperson.

Speaking exclusively to Port Strategy, Tim Morris, The United Kingdom Major Ports Group chief executive, said that the normal business of regulation and policymaking has essentially ground to a halt in the UK: “Day-to-day things like dredging disposal licences and engagement with the Marine Management Organisation and people in Defra are at a standstill while everyone prepares [for Brexit] within their own organisation or has been seconded to other organisations.”

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A second frustration for UK ports has been the lack of movement on what Mr Morris described as the “really useful, important and ambitious” policy management work of the Maritime 2050 vision, which was published at the start of 2019.

“These have simply been parked while the whole of the Department for Transport essentially focuses on Brexit preparations. It is deeply frustrating for all ports,” said Mr Morris.

On the Brexit front, there is a rumble of discontent over an unnecessarily heavy focus on accompanied roll-on roll-off (ro-ro) traffic and the Port of Dover in particular. “While no one would debate that Dover has a unique combination of risk factors in a 'no deal' situation and it is an important port, the mono-focus of the government preparation and media attention has been a source of significant frustration not just to general cargo/container ports but also other ports handling significant quantities of ro-ro activity,” said Mr Morris.

That isn't helpful, he added, explaining that a solution that might work for that very specific context might not be the right solution for a container port or a ro-ro port in a different location with a different set of circumstances, regardless of the political settlement.

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