ESPO urges Brexit impact assessment

Portsmouth International Port The reintroduction of border controls at the EU-UK borders risks turning ports into bottlenecks, say the European Sea Ports Organisation. Image courtesy of Peter Facey/ Geograph

A new position paper calls on Brexit negotiators to consider the impact of potential post-Brexit scenarios on ports and the transport and logistics chain in the second phase of negotiations.

The European Sea Ports Organisation’s (ESPO) paper states that ensuring short-sea fluidity for roll-on/roll-off and short sea services between the UK and EU-27 should be a central objective. It also asks for consideration of the implications of reintroducing port border controls, and the implications of import tariffs in the absence of a trade agreement; clarity on the duration and modalities of the transition period; and consideration for companies exclusively trading with EU Member States to enable them to prepare for extra administration.

“Europe’s ports need certainty and time to adapt to the new realities post-BREXIT if they are to continue to perform their vital function as nodes in intra-European supply chains. If the current short-sea fluidity is compromised, there will be no winners,” said ESPO chairman, Eamonn O’Reilly.

Potential congestion

The reintroduction of border controls at the EU-UK borders risks turning ports into bottlenecks and disrupt long established supply chains, outlines the paper.

If border controls are being reintroduced, some ports will have to reorganise the layout of their terminals, as well as to make investments in the development of innovative IT solutions and additional workforce to cope with the increase of administrative burden.

ESPO therefore urges the European Commission to consider the costs of making ports that depend on EU-UK trade “Brexitproof”, in the preparations for the new multi-annual financial framework.

Port stakeholders should work together to ensure smooth goods flow but talks should only aim at preparing the ground for the different possible Brexit scenarios and should not lead to bilateral deals.

Communication is key

ESPO asks to have as soon as possible clarity on the duration and modalities of the Brexit transition period and to ensure sufficient time to allow ports and the broader logistics chain to prepare for the consequences.

Shippers and operators, especially those operating exclusively at EU level, should be informed and advised at an early stage to enable them to prepare for the likely increase in customs declarations and procedures to comply with border control requirements.

In the absence of an appropriate EU-UK trade agreement import tariffs on both sides will make goods traded between the UK and EU more expensive. This could disturb existing trade routes and have a negative impact on the job creation and industry located within ports as well as on the overall traffic of ports that rely on EU-UK trade.

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