Peel Ports has endorsed a call by leading think tank, IPPR North, for closer co-operation between ports, supply chain operators and logistics companies based in the north of England to nurture vital economic sectors and take advantage of global opportunities, following the publication of the organisation’s wide-ranging research report ‘Gateways to the Northern Powerhouse – a Northern Port Strategy’.
Peel Ports believes that there is unexploited potential in providing a ‘pan-northern’ offering by freight and shipping companies to identify more cost-effective and sustainable movement of goods to key industry sectors in the North.
IPPR North has made a recommendation in the report that the major northern ports bring together their freight and logistics industry partners, along with supply chain customers, to form a Northern Ports Freight and Logistics Association (NPFLA) to drive progress towards addressing the trends and challenges facing the sector.
The think tank has called for the new association to work together with local businesses, local authorities and local enterprise partnership (LEP) partners to develop local port growth strategies.
The strategies will be focusing on opportunities in established, developing and emerging industry clusters, energy and logistics, and a requirement for each major port, working in conjunction with its local planning authorities, to develop an adopted port master plan.
Mark Whitworth, CEO of Peel Ports, said: “The northern ports sit at the heart of some of the most dynamic national growth clusters. Recent investment in a number of northern ports, including our own £300 million [US$450 million] development to create Liverpool2 – the UK’s largest transatlantic container port and Europe’s first semi-automated container terminal – opens up huge potential for the region to be a true global gateway – a key consideration at a time when future trading arrangements with the EU are unclear.
“However, even if there is greater collaboration within the industry, competitiveness is still hindered by a lack of investment in east–west freight and logistics capacity.
“Urgent investment must be made in trans-Pennine road and rail links to open up the east–west freight corridor. Government also has to adopt a consistent and long-term energy policy and promote a move from road to rail and coastal freight traffic.
“Finally, the northern ports, freight and logistics sector has to speak with a clear and coherent voice.
“Ports are fundamental to the performance of the entire UK economy and this represents a massive growth opportunity, particularly for the northern economy.
“As logistics processes become ever more automated and sophisticated there is a massive opportunity for the north of England to be at the cutting edge of new patterns of freight distribution through a series of multimodal distribution parks and strategic rail freight interchanges and an east–west freight super-corridor linking Atlantic traffic with the European mainland.”
Peel Ports has also called for further investment from the industry in the North to support the expansion of a northern ‘Skills Knowledge Hub’.
Mr Whitworth continues: “There is a pressing need for new assessment of current and future skills requirements and a pan-northern approach to recruitment and retention within the sector.
“Ports are dependent on a highly skilled workforce, from engineers and heavy goods vehicle drivers to managers and communications specialists. Training and retraining is a core concern.”
Peel Ports is one of the partners supporting the new Maritime Knowledge Hub which opened in Wirral in March, 2016.
The hub aims to be a global centre of excellence within the UK, generating knowledge-led growth and innovation in maritime technology, skills and services.
It seeks to leverage the expertise of the maritime cluster in the region to create skilled maritime jobs on Merseyside to address future skills needs.
It is anticipated that the Knowledge Hub will be a catalyst for a number of other skills initiatives in the region.