Ports industry should be central to government ‘levelling-up’ plans

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Government plans for ‘levelling-up’ have been welcomed by the UK ports industry, albeit it has been suggested the sector needs to be recognised as a key component of regional and national growth.

The British Ports Association (BPA), the national trade association for ports and harbours, has suggested the proposals unveiled by Michael Gove in the government’s flagship Levelling Up White Paper should look at the role ports can play in economic development and how transport links can stimulate growth.

The Association is promoting an agenda, which highlights that ports can be enablers of regional economic growth and investment. It is also suggesting transport connectivity needs to be front and centre of any national strategy.

Responding to the White Paper, Richard Ballantyne, the Chief Executive of the BPA, which represents ports that facilitate over 86% of UK maritime activities, said: “We are excited to see these plans … will focus on everything from transport, trade, regulatory review, infrastructure investment, skills, through to economic strategy. From trade to tourism, ports are vitally important across our economy.

“Ports are drivers of growth in their own areas, at local, regional and even national level,” Ballantyne continued. “We will be making the case to the government for the prioritisation of port-related initiates in its plans.”

Collectively the ports sector employs more than 100,000 people, often in areas of high deprivation. “These jobs are well paid and highly skilled,” added Ballantyne. “Ports are also the basis for clusters of activity as they can provide hubs of economic investment, bases for important industries and gateways to trade. Therefore, the government plans should look to expand the possibilities for our sector to support its aims.

“As has been recognised by the government’s Freeports strategy ports can be the vehicles for economic growth and are hopeful that this White Paper will examine ways to better facilitate in investment and development opportunities around our coast.

“Transport connectivity is vital for regeneration and we are keen to see national and local focus on the UK’s public road and rail network. Efficiency and links to regional areas, including port sites, can really help drive both the economic and sustainability targets of policy makers.

“This is not just about public spending though. Through also examining the policy and regulatory environment, government can incentivise inward private investment and development.

“As ever we look forward to working with the government to realise these very important aspirations.”

UK ports are financially and strategical independent of government and in the past two years have invested in schemes and infrastructure worth more than £1.1 billion. The BPA is keen that the government explores the opportunity for port growth in its White Paper and will be looking to feed into the levelling-up process.

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