UK Ports “walloped” by affects of COVID-19


Despite a UK Government support package to maintain the flow of goods during the COVID-19 pandemic, questions have been raised as to whether this goes far enough as UK ports see their incomes tumble.

As an island nation ferry services are critical to the UK for both the supply of freight and transportation of people.

The Government’s freight services support package includes up to £17 million for critical routes between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, and up to £10.5 million for lifeline ferry and freight services to the Isle of Wight and the Scilly Isles.

Reacting to the support package, the British Ports Association (BPA) said, “This is broadly speaking good news and will help keep freight moving.”

However, the BPA notes that while it will help keep these goods routes viable it will not help most ports which have significant fixed costs and have been “walloped” as their incomes have tumbled.

“Ports invest hundreds of millions of pounds every year in infrastructure, ensuring ships can move safely and go and that food, medicine and cargo continues to flow. These costs do not disappear when incomes drop away,” the BPA said in a statement on 24 April.

“It is critical that the Government now turns its attention to the wider maritime and logistics sector to ensure it is able to recover and continue supporting the UK economy.”

Meanwhile, the UK Major Ports Group (UKMPG) CEO, Tim Morris, issued a statement saying, “Today’s announcement is welcome, and we look forward to engaging further with Government and industry on the detail.

“Ferry services of all types are very important to the UK and are important customers for UK ports. We hope that the support to the ferry sector will be used to improve the viability of the wider maritime freight supply chains.

“Ensuring that the measures support freight across a range of ferry routes is not just important for the current Coronavirus crisis but also to ensure that the UK has better freight resilience for the longer term.”

Finally, also reacting to the support package, UK Chamber of Shipping Chief Executive Bob Sanguinetti said, “The UK’s vital supply lines, serviced by the ferry operators have been under immense pressure over the past few weeks. 

“We have been working closely with the Department for Transport and we welcome government support on these key ferry routes to ensure essential goods, food and medical supplies keep flowing into the country. We will study the detail of any package closely, to ensure it provides sufficient capacity and resilience over the coming days and weeks.”

In a statement released on 24 April the UK Department for Transport (DfT) said that up to 31 routes will be eligible for support, subject to discussions with operators.

The UK is working closely alongside French and Irish partners and today pledged in a joint statement to “strengthen partnership and share best practices”, to ensure the continued movement of freight across the continent, the statement added.

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