1243 GMT December 13, 2018
“As an industry, we’re ready and prepared,” said Charles Hammond, chief executive of Edinburgh-based Forth Ports, who took over as chair of the trade association on Tuesday, ft.com reported.
After the country leaves the EU’s single market and customs union, imports from the trading bloc will face customs and regulatory checks when entering the UK. Businesses have warned of the economic consequences of disruption at the border if goods are delayed from entering.
Ports are ‘doing quite a lot behind the scenes to prepare’, said Hammond, including investing in inspection facilities, more capacity and warehouses for food to be checked before it enters the UK.
“We’re all, as a group, as an industry, trying to make sure there isn’t that level of disruption,” Hammond said.
The UKMPG includes companies managing container ports in Belfast, London, Southampton, Essex, Humberside and Teeside. However it does not include the port of Dover which handles the majority of lorry traffic in the UK coming from continental Europe, or the port of Holyhead, which is the main route for imports travelling by sea from Ireland.
There were 2.5 million lorries entering the UK through the port of Dover in 2015 and 286,000 entering through Holyhead, according to the Institute for Government. That compares to 8,311 in Felixstowe.
But Hammond said that lots of the ports in the UKMPG are creating capacity to handle more lorries as well as containers. “We’ve got the flexibility and capacity to adapt,” he said.
Many of the ports within the group already have to make sure goods from outside the EU have paid the appropriate customs and meet regulations.
The UK government has said it will leave the EU’s single market but is yet to decide its future customs policy. The government is considering a ‘customs partnership’ option, which would require the UK to collect tariffs on behalf of the EU and a ‘maximum facilitation’ plan for streamlined borders.
Hammond said that whatever policies the government chose, investment by the ports would not be wasted as it ‘all aimed at facilitating and growing trade’ and the industry is ‘flexible in the way they can deal with changing trading patterns’.