Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Covid-19 Emergency Bill: Keeping our trading gateways open should be a priority

Responding to the publication of the Government’s policy paper on its new Emergency Bill the British Ports Association has said that keeping the UK’s global gateways open for trade should be a priority.

Commenting Richard Ballantyne, Chief Executive, British Ports Association said:
 
UK ports facilitate 95% of our trade and will be instrumental ensuring the country is fed and resourced in the coming weeks.

Half of the UK's food is imported and it will be critical to keep our ports open so that shops, public services, and businesses are supplied with what the country needs. The industry is generally very supportive of the Government’s measures to bring the pandemic under control and is working hard to keep goods moving. Also we would expect that proposed new powers to potentially close individual ports will only be used in the most extreme circumstances.

These are unprecedented times and we are working closely with the UK Government and devolved administrations. Our ports are currently open and facilitating imports of food, supplies and resources. It will be important that Government staff at the frontline look to support this effort as best they can.

We have been speaking with our counterparts in Italy where the ports have remained open and we are learning from their experiences to keep our gateways operational. 
The new Bill will enable the Home Secretary to request that port and airport operators temporarily close and suspend operations if Border Force staff shortages result in a real and significant threat to the UK’s border security.

This is to ensure the UK can maintain adequate border security throughout the pandemic and protect the public from the threat of criminality or importation of prohibited items that could result from an inadequately controlled border.

This might only be used in extremis, where necessary and proportionate, and any direction will be kept to the minimum period necessary to maintain the security of the UK border. We trust that these powers would only be enacted suddenly without consideration of the implications. We would expect a sunset clause on these powers so that they expire once the pandemic is brought under control.

The British Ports Association represents all UK domestic passenger ports including Dover, Holyhead, Portsmouth and Southampton, 86% of port cargo activity in the UK and a range of other maritime activities such as serving the offshore energy, fishing, leisure and tourism sectors.
 
Notes
  1. The British Ports Association is the national body for ports and harbours. We represent the interests of over 100 port members, collectively covering more than 400 ports, terminal operators and port facilities.
  2. The UK ports industry plays a key role in the country’s economy as 95% of the UK’s international trade – imports and exports – is carried through British ports.
  3. UK ports also handle more than 60 million international and domestic passenger journeys each year.
  4. The UK port industry is the second largest in Europe, handling around 500 million tonnes of freight each year.
  5. UK ports directly employ around 115,000 people.
  6. The British Ports Association recently produced a video which highlights the importance of ports to the UK’s economy. It can be viewed by clicking here.
Contact
Mark Simmonds | mark.simmonds@britishports.org.uk | 020 7260 1780
Media / Photos
Photos are available for publication in connection with this story: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/hpmvwcu8o3dm2lp/AAChVlLzRrXl1s5As8uj2Zm2a?dl=0
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