Westminster Energy, Environment & Transport Forum

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Next steps for ports in the UK - transition priorities, infrastructure development, freeports, smart ports and decarbonisation

Morning, Monday, 7th December 2020


This conference will discuss the policy priorities for further developing ports in the UK.


The discussion at a glance:

  • key operational challenges ahead of the end of the EU exit transition period - and dealing with the uncertainty it presents for port-side activity
  • the future of freeports in the UK
  • priorities for modernising, digitising and decarbonising ports
  • the impact of COVID-19 on the sector

The context for discussion:

  • COVID-19 - significant challenges and pressures affecting ports throughout the UK, with disrupting port operations and efficiency
  • UK transition:
    • ongoing trade and access talks - and contingency planning in the run-up to the end-of-year deadline
    • Government accelerates border planning for the end of the Transition Period - including £84m to support the growth of the customs intermediary sector
    • £200m Port Infrastructure Fund opens for bids - government support for facility development to prepare for transition
  • Freeports consultation: boosting trade, jobs and investment across the UK - on creating up to 10 freeports in locations across the UK 
  • the National Infrastructure Strategy - expected to outline the Government’s long-term priorities, and due to be published this Autumn unaffected by the cancellation of the Autumn Budget
  • 5-year plan promoting the UK’s world class global maritime offer - from the DIT outlining key areas such as port digitisation, use of autonomous technology, and the greening of port operations, and their role in improving the strength and competitiveness of UK ports

Key areas for discussion:

  • COVID-19:
    • what can be learned - taken forward the experience from how the sector has adapted to COVID-19
    • safeguarding port operations in the context of the pandemic and in case of further lockdowns - financial support mechanisms and how they are accessed, arrangements for facilities to remain open and safe for cargo and port users, and latest thinking on utilising facilities efficiently to protect supply chain operations
  • transition preparation:
    • what will be required from policy in order to minimise further challenges - protecting the financial sustainability of key supply chains, and the flow of travel and trade, and to communicate clear rules for stakeholders as relations change with the EU
    • assessing readiness - the impact of the intensification of recent preparations for the upcoming end of the transition period including the support for the customs intermediary sector and customs requirements for imported and exported items, the declaration of goods, and increased physical checks
    • minimising disruption to trade - boosting capacity for increased checks and traffic, designing standardised administrative procedures and documentation, and opportunities presented by digital technology for streamlining the flow of goods
    • EU exit scenarios - preparing for a range of outcomes and unforeseen impacts, how best to adjust to new tariff regimes, priorities for providing policy advice to different sectors, developing workforce skills for goods checking and other processes, and assessing the scope of further support measures for businesses and the ports sector
  • developing port infrastructure in the UK - priorities for supporting economic growth:
    • major port readiness - scaling up terminal capacity for international trade including new sectors and export markets, and developing partnerships with industry to develop new services
    • smart ports:
      • developing a pathway for modernisation and addressing challenges
      • digitising logistics and technical operations, and automating stacking and crane functions
      • accessing funding for innovation and strategies for ensuring the developments contribute to increasing efficiency and reducing operational costs
    • connectivity - priorities for positioning and integrating ports within the wider transport infrastructure network 
  • economic impact - maximising the role of ports in relation to their local businesses and communities, and their economies and employment markets
  • decarbonisation:
    • innovation and next steps for reducing operational emissions, including integrating more advanced emissions analysis measures on site
    • supporting the growth of low carbon shipping and working with energy-intensive sectors, including supporting the development of alternative fuel markets
    • collaboration with local government and other stakeholders such as higher education on integrated local net-zero strategies
  • freeports - the potential opportunities for economic growth, as well as implications on customs regimes, with the Government planning up to 10 new freeports across the UK
    • maximising the economic impact of freeports - priorities for setting rules on duty-free imports, assembly, and re-export as we all as communicating new and flexible taxation rates to businesses, and ensuring freeports offer competitive and attractive destinations for business location
    • establishing a system that fosters and drives innovation - providing dynamic regulation for innovators, enabling new business models and industries to operate in growth hubs, and latest thinking on growing productivity through the development of start-ups and new technology

The agenda

  • The outlook of the ports sector
  • Case study - protecting port functions during COVID-19
  • Preparing UK ports for after the UK-EU Transition Period - minimising traffic and trade congestion, boosting capacity, and latest thinking on adjusting to new tariff regimes
  • Developing port infrastructure in the UK - designing terminals fit for capacity, and meeting the needs of new services and demands
  • Positioning the UK as a leader in smart ports and automation - increasing operational efficiency, cargo logistics, and harnessing the benefits of digitisation
  • Pathways for port decarbonisation up to 2050 - commercialising low-carbon shipping, reducing operational emissions, and collaborating on local net-zero strategies
  • Next steps for freeports in the UK - practical design, enabling economic growth, and supporting innovation
    • Effective customs arrangements - reducing tariff barriers, becoming more competitive, and supporting duty free re-exports
    • Freeports and supporting innovation - regulatory flexibility, attracting startups, and testing new technology
  • Policy priorities for developing and supporting UK ports

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by BEIS; the Department for Transport; HMRC; the Home Office; the Department of International Trade; the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration; the DHSC; the Department for the Economy, NI; the Department for Infrastructure NI; the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (ROI); and Transport Scotland.


Overall, we expect further speakers and other delegates to be an informed group including Members of both Houses of Parliament, senior government officials involved in this area of public policy, together with ports from around the UK and their partners including industry associations, the freight and wider transport sector, infrastructure and technology providers, exporters and other businesses, local authorities and LEPs, consultancies and logistics organisations, financial, legal and public affairs advisors, environmental, community and regeneration groups, academics and commentators, international interests and embassies, and reporters from the specialist and national media.


This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conferenc



Keynote Speakers

Robert Courts MP

Minister for Aviation, Maritime & Security, Department for Transport (pre-recorded contribution)

Richard Ballantyne

Chief Executive, British Ports Association

Peter Neville-Jones

Technical Director, Maritime and Ports, AECOM

Richard Willis

Technical Director, Port Operations, Maritime & Aviation, Royal HaskoningDHV

Peter Aylott

Director, Policy, UK Chamber of Shipping

Speakers

Lucy Hudson

Principal Policy Officer Freight and Logistics, Transport for the North

Councillor Kevin Bentley

Deputy Leader, and Cabinet Member for Infrastructure, Essex County Council

Tim Morris

Chief Executive, UK Major Ports Group

Liz Dunn

Partner, Burges Salmon

Dr Jo North

Director, Technology and Transformation, Port of Tyne