Ahead of the UK’s exit from the EU Customs union, the country’s government has launched a £200 million ($258 million) fund to enable ports to build new facilities and prepare for life outside the EU.
As explained, new infrastructure at ports will be needed whether or not the UK secures a negotiated agreement with the EU as the UK is leaving the Customs Union and Single Market and new procedures will be coming into place.
Specifically, the Port Infrastructure Fund is targeted at those ports that have the space to build new border infrastructure on their current sites so that they are ready to handle new customs requirements under the new Border Operating Model. The funding can be used for a range of vital port infrastructure – from warehouses and control posts to traffic management systems.
The deadline for applications is midday on 30 October, with successful bids announced shortly after.
Where infrastructure is not best situated at ports, the government has allocated an additional £270 million to build inland customs facilities.
Recognising the impact of coronavirus on businesses’ ability to prepare, the UK has taken the decision to introduce new border controls in three stages up until 1 July 2021. This “flexible and pragmatic” approach will give industry extra time to make necessary arrangements, the government said.
The opening of the fund has been welcomed by industry, and will see ports accelerate their preparations for the end of the year, as well as give industry confidence that all required infrastructure will be delivered on time, the government added.
“With just 3 months to go until the end of the UK transition period, businesses need to prepare now for the new procedures that will come into place whether or not we reach a trade agreement with the EU, so that we can seize the significant opportunities that lie ahead,” Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, said.
“There is significant port capacity around the coast of the UK for handling freight flows to and from the EU. Today’s announcement is a welcome step in ensuring that this capacity can be maximised and UK supply chains can be more resilient,” Tim Morris, the UK Major Ports Group, the trade association for the UK’s largest port operators, noted.
“Time is short and it is vital that UK businesses prepare for new border arrangements. We will work urgently with the Government on the all-important detail and related regulations.”
Ports industry welcomes new funding
The UK ports industry has welcomed the launch of the government’s new Port Infrastructure Fund, the British Ports Association (BPA) which represents the interest of over 100 port members, said in a separate statement.
According to BPA, the scheme will enable ports in England, Scotland and Wales to bid funding for capital projects for infrastructure that will be used to accommodate new customs and border processes in 2021.
“We welcome this fund and the focus on preparing port infrastructure for what will need accommodate a significant change in our trading relationship with the EU,” Richard Ballantyne, Chief Executive of the British Ports Association, commented.
“It’s clear that without support there would not be the capacity to deal the new customs and borders requirements. We therefore welcome this scheme which importantly will be open to all port operators across Great Britain.”
“The clock is definitely ticking and a lot of work still needs to be done but this will help overcome a significant hurdle. We will continue to work with government to help shape a border strategy that works for the UK’s freight sector.”
Although open to all types of ports it is expected that roll-on roll-off (RoRo) operators will have the most interest in applying to use this scheme. This sector has the most to do to adapt to new requirements which will come into existence when the EU completes the Brexit transition period. Indeed how new controls are placed on the 10,000 lorry movements a day between the UK and Europe is critical to avoid traffic disruption.