Shipping body claims additional customs check will bring 'gridlock' to UK ports

By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 10 Jul 2017

The return of border controls at UK ports would result in “guaranteed” lorry gridlock and damage the economy, a shipping organisation has warned.

As government negotiations to facilitate Britain’s exit from the European Union gather pace, the UK Chamber of Shipping says the EU is ignoring the risk Brexit could bring to European ports.

Chief executive of the chamber, Guy Platten, said: “The EU sells £240bn of goods to the UK each year, most of which travels through ports. So the negative impact of a so-called hard Brexit on ports such as Dover will be felt just as severely if not more so by European ports.

“I don't think the EU has fully grasped this yet.”

ABP Port of Hull

The chamber said the proposed return of border controls would lead to increased bureaucracy, “guaranteed” lorry gridlock and threats to the prosperity of both EU member states and the UK.

Mr Platten said Brexit negotiators on both sides must agree that the reintroduction of border controls would be a bad thing, and said Theresa May and Michel Barnier must “put ideology aside and be pragmatic” in an attempt retain frictionless trade.

Read more: Drax boss wants Brexit deal that ensures secure future for UK energy

He said: “Much of the attention on the impact of leaving the customs union has been on UK ports, but major EU ports such as Calais, Zeebrugge and Dublin would find themselves equally as vulnerable.

“The UK government understands the importance of sorting this out around the negotiating table, but we are yet to see evidence that the EU negotiators fully understand their own vulnerability.”

The Humber is the UK’s busiest trading estuary, with about 30,000 vessel movements every year.

ABP’s four ports of Hull, Grimsby, Goole, and Immingham are a key part of this trade, handling more than £75bn worth of goods every year and supporting an estimated 33,000 jobs.

In April, the ports operator defied industry uncertainty surrounding Brexit by announcing an investment of £50m to more than double the capacity of its two Humber container terminals - £30m of which is being used to upgrade ABP’s Hull container terminal.

An ABP spokesman said while the proposals to bring additional border controls were causing concerns across the industry, he believed solutions could be found to allay these fears.

Read more: Hull businesses say more European visitors are coming thanks to continental tourism focus

He said: “There are concerns in the ports industry both in the UK and the rest of Europe about the potential impact of additional customs checks as a consequence of leaving the customs union. It is well known that this may have a negative impact on ports like Dover which are particularly space constrained.

“However, we are confident that solutions can be found, for example by adapting and enhancing existing processes and technology used to deal with non-European trade.

“And we have been engaging in constructive discussions with colleagues in ports across Europe who share our aim to ensure trade can flow as freely as possible.

“ABP has invested more than £100m since the referendum in new port infrastructure and facilities to help our customers’ businesses to grow.

“We retain a strong commitment to deliver the facilities and solutions our customers need for the longterm.

“As well as further investment by ABP, this also includes working with the Government to make sure that trade with the EU and the rest of the world can continue to grow."

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