Ports: Preparing for 2021 and a leading role within UK PLC

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Ports: Preparing for 2021 and a leading role within UK PLC

3 min read

By Tim Williamson

The Covid 19 pandemic and planning specifically for 'Life after Europe' have filled the 'in trays" in ports sector for many months.

Such important matters require a great deal of careful thought and consideration but also provide a great opportunity to think holistically about how the port operates, how it can be a force for good in its region and how it can facilitate the changing way that we now live our lives.  These are serious matters and anyone attending the Ports Development Conference on Tuesday 17th November can only have been impressed by the effort that has gone into building back sustainably up and down the country.

There has been a great deal of thought given to reducing emissions, developing and expanding transport infrastructure and doing so against a backdrop of regulations.

Note also that the collective "in tray" of ports and harbour authorities has been increased further this week in two important respects:

  1. Freeports -  Bidding Prospectus now launched
  2. National Security and Investment Bill published on 11th November

Freeports

The Government's consultation on Freeports produced largely positive responses and the stage is now set for what the UK Government describes as "a bespoke, world leading UK Freeport model aiming to establish Freeports as national hubs for global trade and investment across the UK, promote regeneration and job creation, and create hotbeds for innovation."

There is relatively little content in the Government's response however which considers how these objectives might impact our friends and partners in continental Europe (or further afield) although there is a reference at the very foot of page 17 there is reference to [The government's intention] to ensure that countermeasures, which include rebalancing measures or retaliatory duties applied in the context of an international trade dispute are similarly applied to all goods subject to those duties when entering the UK, including Freeports.  Indeed, the government "will work with customs in designing a system to ensure that this policy works in practice".

The Bidding Prospectus has now been published for England with the Government seeking applications from ports across all parts of the country by 12 noon on Friday 5th February 2021.  The intention is to confer 'Freeport' status on up to 10 applicants and  is more than one reference to the stated 'levelling up' agenda'.

Ports will want to consider planning implications of applying for and securing Freeport status and our Planning team will provide their insight on such considerations separately and directly if preferred.  The link to the Bidding Prospectus document is here.

National security

It's been a busy week in Whitehall!

The National Security and Investment Bill was published which ostensibly envisages the UK government involving itself to restrict certain investment into the UK. 

According to the UK Government:

"The Bill seeks to modernise the government’s powers to investigate and intervene in potentially hostile foreign direct investment that threatens UK national security….The government believes that hostile investments into parts of the transport sector could pose risks to national security and is introducing mandatory notification to parts of the transport sector. We are consulting on which areas of the economy should be subject to mandatory notification when the legislation comes into force, and [we] welcome views."

This will require Ports to think carefully about levels of risk and exposure and adopt a collaborative approach to best ensure that Government intervention remains effective, targeted and proportionate.  Ongoing dialogue between ports and through sector groups such as UKMPG, British Ports Association and UK Harbour Masters Association will be of the essence.

The link to the Consultation can be found here.

To discuss any of the themes discussed above please contact Tim Williamson or Christian Silk directly…