UK ports aim to lure more shipping

British ports could gain a competitive edge in tough shipping markets through post-Brexit exclusion from planned EU regulation of the sector, leading British port officials have said.

Last month’s vote to leave the EU means that British terminals are set to escape the proposed Ports Services Regulation that critics have said would hit UK ports unfairly because most are privately funded, while many of their European counterparts receive financing from local authorities.

The mooted EU-wide rules cover port services such as piloting but also include port charges and exemptions for state aid, which would add to cost pressure on UK operators while eroding their ability to control prices.

“I am reassured that if there is one benefit [from Brexit]... the EU directive that was coming our way will fall away,” Mark Whitworth, chief executive of Peel Ports, Britain’s second-biggest operator in terms of cargo handled said.

“At the moment, we have a level playing field and no interference from government,” he said.

A briefing paper prepared for Britain’s parliament in January said 43 UK ports out of 319 in total in the EU would be affected by the EU regulations.

“Brexit does offer us the opportunity to say goodbye to a whole range of inappropriate and costly regulations,” said James Cooper, CEO of Associated British Ports (ABP).

Peel Ports and ABP said they are committed to various investment programmes despite Britain’s impending EU exit.

Peel Ports has invested over £300m (€358m) in transforming Liverpool into a deep-water container terminal that can receive bigger ships, which Mr Whitworth said would formally open in October.

ABP has £1bn in investments planned over the next four to five years.

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