Westminster Energy, Environment & Transport Forum

Since lockdown, we have been organising our full programme of conferences online. We will continue online until further notice, to ensure we play our part in helping our employees and delegates to remain safe during this time. We are pleased that so many key stakeholders, policymakers and other interested parties - both old friends and new delegates - are taking up the opportunity to discuss public policy issues and network at our impartial seminars. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time. So there are plenty of opportunities for you to join us if you haven’t already, from wherever you are. For booking-related queries, or information on speaking, please email us at info@forumsupport.co.uk or contact us using one of the following numbers: +44 (0)7951044809 / +44 (0)7503591880 / +44 (0)7538736244.
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The future for Ports in the UK: priorities post the EU exit transition period, infrastructure development and freight

Morning, Monday, 7th December 2020

Online Conference

This conference will discuss the policy priorities for further developing ports in the UK, examining how key operational challenges ahead of the end of the EU exit transition period.

Sessions will also assess the impact of COVID-19 on the sector, priorties for modernising and digitising ports, decarbonising ports and the future of freeports in the UK.

Why this is relevant - the context:

It takes place:

  • In the context of significant challenges and pressures effecting ports throughout the UK, with COVID-19 disrupting port operations and efficiency, and with the end of the EU exit transition period drawing near
  • Following the close of the Government’s Freeports Consultation earlier this year on creating up to 10 freeports in locations across the UK 
  • Following the anticipated release of the National Infrastructure Strategy alongside the Autumn Budget, expected to outline the Government’s long-term priorities for infrastructure development
  • With the published 5-year plan for maritime and trade, which prepares a vision for 2050, and outlines how key areas such as port digitisation, the use of autonomous technology, and the greening of port operations, can improve the strength and competitiveness of British ports

Key areas for discussion:

Developing port resilience and maintaining operational efficiency during periods of economic and physical disruption

Ahead of the end of the EU exit transition period, planned sessions will discuss:

  • how the sector has adapted to COVID-19
  • what will be required from policy in order to minimise further challenges, such as protecting the financial sustainability of key supply chains, and the flow of travel and trade
  • the impact of the intensification of recent preparations for the upcoming end of the transition period - such as the provision of £84m to grow an intermediary sector for custom checks, encompassing all EU trade beyond 2020 - including customs requirements for imported and exported items, the declaration of goods, and increased physical checks
  • What is needed from policymakers and wider groups of stakeholders to ensure ports remain resilient, and are able to operate effectively during periods of disruption, considering:
    • priorities for safeguarding port operations during COVID-19 - accessing financial support mechanisms, ensuring facilities remain open and safe for cargo and port users, and latest thinking on utilising facilities efficiently to protect supply chain operations
    • preparing for different exit scenarios and steps for minimising disruption at the end of the transition period - boosting capacity for increased checks and traffic, reducing barriers to the efficient flow of freight and commerce and opportunities presented by digital technology for streamlining the travel of goods

Steps for unlocking smart ports and digitisation, and the future of freeports in the UK

Further sessions will provide an opportunity to examine the priorities for developing port infrastructure in the UK, including:

  • designing a ports infrastructure system that enables economic growth - scaling up terminal capacity for international trade, partnerships with industry to facilitate new services, and improving the readiness of major ports for dealing with new sectors and export markets
  • developing a pathway for smart ports and overcoming modernisation challenges - digitising logistics and technical operations, automating stacking and crane functions, steps for accessing funding for innovation, and reducing operational costs through efficiency
  • leveraging the benefits of port development for local economies - increasing local business activity, integrating ports within the wider transport infrastructure network, and supporting economic growth
  • next steps for decarbonising ports and their operations - including reducing operational emissions, supporting the growth of low carbon shipping, and working with local governments and other energy-intensive stakeholders on integrated local net-zero strategies

It will also be an opportunity for policymakers and stakeholders to examine the Government’s intention to create up to 10 new freeports across the UK, following the closed consultation earlier this year, with sessions looking at the potential opportunities for economic growth, as well as implications on customs regimes, including:

  • Future customs arrangements - priorities for setting rules on duty free imports, assembly, and re-export, communicating new and flexible taxation rates to businesses
  • 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 startups 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.

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 conference

Keynote Speakers

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


Tim Morris

Chief Executive, UK Major Ports Group

Liz Dunn

Partner, Burges Salmon