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Release Date:
Release ID: 5378

UK freight forwarders comment on National Ports Policy

Following a review, the British International Freight Association (BIFA), the trade association for UK freight forwarders, says that the National Policy Statement for Ports (NPS) delivers a framework for port infrastructure development in England and Wales over the next few decades.

Peter Quantrill, BIFA Director General says: “Those who drafted this national policy are to be broadly congratulated for providing a framework within which ports in England and Wales can successfully develop.

“BIFA Members are as much customers and tenants of ports as shipping lines and as such our Membership has an interest in any framework that will guide infrastructure development at English and Welsh ports.”

The publication of the NPS followed a consultation period in which BIFA firmly expressed its views on how the NPS could impact on the port business in England and Wales and how it ought to work to shape a sustaining and businesslike environment in which to plan for the country’s future port activities.

Quantrill adds: “The government agrees with us in seeing that the port industry is a vital contributor to this country's economic recovery and success. With over 90% of trade by tonnage passing through seaports, the importance of a clear planning framework for their future sustainable development can hardly be overstated.

“The NPS acknowledges two key factors for port development. Firstly, for an island economy, there are limited alternatives available to the use of sea transport for the movement of freight. Secondly, UK ports compete with each other as well as neighbours in continental Europe as primary destinations for deep sea shipping, as stops for coastal shipping activity and as bases for terminals and associated infrastructure.


“Crucially, the government acknowledges that all ports in England and Wales operate on commercial lines, without public subsidy and with investment from private sector investors.

“This policy statement was never going to be about the commercial siting of warehousing or what landlords would charge for business premises. Instead, it allows judgements to be made about where and when new developments might be proposed on the basis of commercial factors by the port industry or port developers operating within a free market environment.”

The NPS points out that, while recession has led to a severe downturn in demand, the government’s view is that the long-term effect will be only to delay for a number of years not derail the eventual levels of demand for port capacity in England and Wales. It lists seven gateway port development projects that have been given the green light since 2005, though not all have commenced. When completed, these expansions will add capacity of a further 12.5 million teu, meaning aggregate container capacity development would be broadly in line with the pre-recession forecast for demand over the next two decades.

Mr Quantrill says: “One of our concerns last year was that the NPS would concentrate too much on the non-business factors that hinder port development – impact on the environment, national security and historic buildings and wrecks – while ignoring the business factors that our Members consider important.

“Our position remains straightforward: it is of the utmost importance that deep sea shipping lines continue to call direct at UK ports and not be attracted away by state-funded rival ports on the near-Continent. The NPS could be a roadmap of how that ambition will be achieved.”

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