Responding to today's announcements on Welsh devolution, the Chairman of the Welsh Ports Group welcomed the opportunity to open a new dialogue with the Welsh Government to discuss the implications of the proposed transfer of ports policy powers to the Welsh Assembly.
The cross-party St David's Day 'Powers for a Purpose' agreement includes commitments to introduce legislation in Westminster to devolve certain transport functions, such as ports policy, to the Welsh Government.
The Welsh Ports Group, which is jointly organised by UKMPG and the BPA and represents the interests of ports across Wales, is chaired by Alec Don, Chief Executive of Milford Haven Port Authority. Of the announcement he said:
"We welcome the opportunity this presents to work closely with the Welsh Government on the development of a ports policy supportive of a sector which is such an important driver of the Welsh economy. We believe there are some real advantages to linking up strategic transport, freight and planning policies. However, there remain some questions in relation to the Welsh Government's aspirations for ports; on the likely resourcing required for a Welsh ports policy unit; and on the implications for ports policy elsewhere in the UK. The Welsh Ports ocntinue to believe in the preservation of a level playing field which includes not being put at any disadvantage relative to ports in other regions.
We have a good relationship with the Welsh Government and have previously discussed a number of shared policy aspirations which we hope to develop further through a new dialogue. Ports operate commercially and independently, but do rely on government to provide a fast and efficient planning system, good road and rail connections and a light touch regulatory approach. The Welsh Ports believe that policy in relation to the ports sector needs to be underpinned by these principles.
This is a real opportunity for the Welsh Government to provide a stable and competitive policy framework for Welsh ports to enable them to develop and contribute to economic growth in Wales. There also needs to be UK-wide consultation to ensure that the potential impact on what has been to date a level playing field across the UK in terms of ports policy is fully understood."
The Welsh Ports Group was one of a number of bodies that gave both oral and written evidence to the Silk Commission as part of its review of the Welsh devolution.
In terms of the Welsh ports industry, throughout Wales there is a mix of global and national players in the energy and cargo handling markets as well as a wide range of fishing and leisure harbours. All are economically important locally and regionally wth some also being of real national importance.