With ten weeks to go to what is likely to be a no-deal
Brexit, potentially resulting in disruptions and congestion at UK ports, little
or no planning has been done, the poll shows.
When leaders at UK port and harbour authorities were asked
about their state of readiness, only 16% said they had made any “significant or
practical” plans for Brexit. The remainder were equally split between ports
doing “only some high-level planning” and nothing at all.
“The ports industry is keen to seize on any opportunities
arising from Brexit, but this is the first real indication of what’s actually
happening outside ports like Dover,” said Paul Butterworth, head of the
Maritime & Shipping Practice at Odgers Berndtson.
Although most (over 80%) UK ports have done little or no
planning for Brexit, over half (59%) expect a negative or strongly negative
Despite the lack of preparation, only 25% of UK port leaders
think they are currently in a position to handle Brexit well. A third believe
they could cope, but ideally with further investment, whilst over 40% either
don’t know or doubt their ability to handle additional demands.
Physical blockages and additional complexity arising from
Brexit are the principal concerns of leadership teams, with around half
(respectively 43.5% and 52%) giving these as their most pressing worries.
Almost 80% gave physical infrastructure as their top
priority for any further investment. Technology was first priority for 26%,
with almost half (47%) making their second highest priority for additional
investment. Most of the senior management teams (83%) believe their ports have
the right people to lead in the short term. However, a similar number
identified investing in senior people as a priority, albeit less urgent than
infrastructure and technology.
Responding to the survey, the British Ports Association has
suggested ports and terminals are considering a range of potential outcomes, stressing
that the uncertainty has made it difficult for ports to make firm investment
decisions in potential solutions.
Furthermore, like many others in the logistics chain ports
are awaiting details from the government as to what the final trading environment
will look like.
“The ports industry has been involved in extensive planning
and discussion with the UK Government on the challenges a no-deal Brexit would
present, but given that there is still no certainty around our trading
relationship with Europe after Brexit it is not surprising that some ports have
been unable to fully prepare,” Richard Ballantyne, the Chief Executive of the
British Ports Association, said.
As explained, there is a variety of levels of exposure to
Brexit challenges across the UK ports sector, stressing that ferry ports would
be impacted the most.
“The industry has been working at a national level as well
as with local resilience forums and other groups to ensure that ports and
partners across the freight and logistics sectors – including Government
agencies at the border – will be prepared for any potential disruption,” he
“This research underlines the importance of securing an
agreement and negotiating a future relationship that does not put in place any
new barriers to free flowing trade.”