Rather than start January with setting unrealistic diet plans or buying new trainers that will only make it to the corner shop, here are some thoughts on what policy developments the UK’s major ports would like to see in 2018 to continue their success. As we’re not quite out of panto season yet since Aladdin only got three wishes, that’s what we’ll focus on: Getting the best out of Brexit, enabling more economic growth and opportunity and creating the right conditions for the port of the future.
1. Getting the best out of Brexit: Like it or loath it, Brexit presents challenges but also opportunities. With 75% of UK’s trade in goods being handled through UKMPG members the practical issues of systems and processes for trading outside the Customs Union need to be grasped rapidly on both sides of the channel. But this must not blind us to the opportunities that Brexit brings as well. The elevation of trade up the political agenda can only be a good thing for the UK. UKMPG wants to see the current priority turned into a standing imperative of any UK Government, hard wired into its policies and decision making. We also have an opportunity to set a regulatory framework appropriate for the UK’s unique port sector – such as repealing the EU’s job and investment killing Port Services Regulation at the earliest possible opportunity;
2. Enabling more growth and opportunity: UKMPG members already invest more than half a billion pounds a year in the UK. But maximising the benefit from this investment for the UK and the communities surrounding ports means we need good access to ports – road, rail and digitally. The DfT’s Ports Connectivity Study and the National Infrastructure Commission’s freight review are much anticipated. Also, we need a regulatory environment that promotes investment in port infrastructure rather than hinders it – a planning system that unlocks the potential of ports and their hinterlands and an environmental framework that is robust but realistic. The progress of projects like Tilbury 2 through the NPS approach will be closely watched;
3. Creating the right conditions for the ‘port of the future’. A strong ports sector is a vital foundation for strategic UK supply chains like car making – 7 out of every 10 cars made in the UK are exported via a UKMPG port. We are determined to be at the leading edge of technological developments in autonomy, artificial intelligence and the digital, smart, green economy. That means ports getting their place in the UK’s Industrial Strategy and developing the right regulatory approaches for this new world. Ports are confident that they will take their place as part of the ‘4th industrial revolution’ as surely as they’ve done in previous major advances.
So, will any of those wishes prove more resilient than diet or exercise fads? Time will tell. But what is never in doubt is the contribution of the UK’s major ports today, and their willingness to develop and grow their contribution tomorrow. UKMPG looks forward to working with policy makers at all levels in 2018 to make this happen.