The British Ports Association is calling on the UK government to broaden the scope of testing and ensure that those working to keep the country supplied with imported food, energy and medicines are protected.
The UK ports industry is cooperating very closely with the Department for Transport and other agencies and the sector understands and supports the need to prioritise clinical staff and frontline emergency workers.
As soon as capacity can be made available for wider testing, this should be extended to key workers in the transport and logistics sector to ensure that food, energy and other critical goods continue to flow through ports.
Port professionals, including marine pilots, play a critical role in facilitating 95% of UK trade. Half of the county’s food imports come through our maritime gateways and those port workers responsible for making it happen have been identified as ‘key workers’ by the government.
Goods including food, medicines and energy continue to flow into the country. However, like many other parts of the economy some port operators are concerned about cash flow issues and the impact on the financial status of their customers, particularly ferry companies and other passenger focused activities such as cruises. There are also planned slow-downs such as in automotive manufacturing which could be costly for the port and logistics industry. Government support packages have been welcomed by ports.
We appreciate the unprecedented effort of the health care sector and understand the need to allocate testing and other materials across the NHS first and foremost. However, there is now a pressing need to ensure that our port gateways have the protections they need such as sanitiser, masks and testing equipment so that they can continue to function effectively in the coming weeks and months. This will help ensure resilience of our supply chains.
PPE supplies – sanitiser, masks, etc. – are beginning to run low in some ports and this may soon start to have a knock-on effect.