UKMPG launches growth plan for ports

Tim Morris Tim Morris told Port Strategy about how UKMPG's five-point plan aims to make UK ports more competitive and successful. Credit: UKMPG

The UK Major Ports Group (UKMPG) has launched a five-point plan which aims to address how the UK government can play a role in making UK ports more competitive and successful.

'Boosting trade, investment and jobs: 5 ways to grow the success of the UK’s major ports' calls for policies that will ensure the UK has a major ports sector that can continue to thrive in a changing world; promote connectivity that boosts trade, productivity and sustainability; create a positive planning and development framework to boost investment and jobs; deliver a balanced environmental approach that delivers both sustainability and growth; and makes sure the UK is well placed as a location to develop the ports of the future.

Tim Morris, CEO of UKMPG, said that to promote connectivity, the UKMPG is "looking at is defining a strategic freight network for the UK to make sure that it is given proper weighting within government planning and development." Focusing on how to move freight effectively, beyond specific transport modes, is important, as is working with devolved bodies and organisations for policy change.

Planning and development

To deliver the planning and development framework, he said UKMPG "will be setting up a detailed programme of work between industry and the government for a series of roundtables to take forward these proposals and see how they can be turned into practical changes to regulation and process."

The work will involve engaging with different parts of government, not just the Department for Transport, but also the Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government, he explained. For example, changes to the definition of permitted development will be a matter for both departments. "That bit of work will be kicking off in the new year and hopefully we'll be pursuing it throughout the course of the year," he said.

Environmental streamlining

Environmental assessments could be streamlined to avoid duplication of compliance work, for example under UK and EU law and with different requirements under different types of EU law, provided this doesn't change the environmental robustness of development programmes. There could also be more flexibility with mitigation rules, particularly at an EU level.

Future of ports

To develop ports of the future, Mr Morris said the government must continues to invest in the foundations of innovation, including stem skills building in schools and efficiency with initiatives such as the Apprenticeship Levy. Innovation will also be helped by stepping back from overregulation and looking at spaces around the coast where there might be a more flexible regulatory framework to allow testing of autonomous shipping.

He stressed that while the government should take an active part in industry growth, the aim is to create the best framework for ports to come forward with their own development plans rather than the government implementing a top down approach which targets particular ports with post-Brexit economics in mind.

"We will support measures that will improve the market signals that would bring forward port capacity and investment to respond to changes in the regulatory environment," stated Mr Morris.

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