BRI­TAIN’S PORTS SET TO TACKLE BREXIT WAVE

DP World is one of the op­er­a­tors and is con­fi­dent of seam­less ac­tiv­ity

The National - News - - BUSINESS - NOOR NANJI Lon­don

At the Port of Til­bury in Es­sex, as well as at its ri­val DP World Lon­don Gate­way far­ther down the River Thames, the scene is one of fric­tion­less in­ter­na­tional com­merce.

It is a model that the op­er­a­tors of the two ports be­lieve can con­tinue af­ter Brexit, even if the UK’s de­par­ture from the EU re­sults in a new cus­toms bor­der with the rest of Europe.

The risks to the sec­tor post-Brexit, how­ever, are well known. Cur­rently, 95 per cent of Bri­tain’s in­ter­na­tional trade is mov­ing via ships, ac­cord­ing to the data from the UK Cham­ber of Ship­ping. If phys­i­cal cus­toms checks are in­tro­duced fol­low­ing Brexit, it could have a “cat­a­strophic” im­pact on British ports and ship­ping, and could re­sult in miles of tail backs at Dover on the South­east coast of Eng­land, the head of the cham­ber Guy Plat­ten has warned.

“The night­mare sce­nario is ac­tu­ally hav­ing phys­i­cal cus­toms bor­ders... it would be ab­so­lutely a catas­tro­phe for the ports and for our sec­tor,” re­ports cited Mr Plat­ten as say­ing. “You’ve sud­denly got lor­ries stacked up, you’ve got sail­ings can­celled... the whole sup­ply chain is com­pletely af­fected.”

Dover, Europe’s busiest ferry port, cur­rently han­dles around 500 non-EU trucks a day and around 8,000 from the EU. The sheer num­ber un­der­lines the UK’s heavy re­liance on trade with its EU neigh­bours.

While few ex­pect move­ment of goods to be as smooth as it is now af­ter Brexit, some of the port op­er­a­tors are tak­ing proac­tive steps to en­sure they are able to weather the storm.

Til­bury Port – a key ship­ping hub serv­ing Lon­don – is busy putting in place plans for it 152 acre-ex­pan­sion, a move aimed at en­hanc­ing its post-Brexit trade links with Europe.

A new ter­mi­nal, Til­bury2, will be built ad­ja­cent to the ex­ist­ing fa­cil­i­ties, cre­at­ing a new deep­wa­ter jetty which will al­low more fer­ries to come and go and in­crease the port’s ca­pac­ity by a quar­ter, ac­cord­ing to the plans an­nounced this month. The ad­di­tion of a new ter­mi­nal is cen­tral to Til­bury Port’s wider £1 bil­lion (Dh4.94bn) ex­pan­sion plan. A de­vel­op­ment con­sent or­der has al­ready been sub­mit­ted, and if ap­proved, the project is ex­pected to be op­er­a­tional by mid-2020, soon af­ter the UK of­fi­cially leaves the EU.

Charles Ham­mond, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Forth Ports, which owns Til­bury Ports, said the plans would “put Til­bury on the front foot” as the coun­try heads toward Brexit.

“We are work­ing with Bor­der Force and other gov­ern­ment agen­cies to make sure Til­bury2 is fit-for-pur­pose when the fa­cil­ity opens in 2020,” he said.

Til­bury Port, lo­cated on the north shore of River Thames is around 40 kilo­me­tres down­stream from of Lon­don Bridge and its ex­pan­sion project would go ahead re­gard­less of Brexit, said Mr Ham­mond. How­ever, com­pe­ti­tion be­tween the Thames ports has in­creased since the open­ing of Til­bury’s ri­val, DP World Lon­don Gate­way, which is also sit­u­ated on the north bank of the river in Thur­rock.

The deep­wa­ter port, op­er­ated by Dubai’s DP World opened in No­vem­ber 2013 and is ca­pa­ble of han­dling the big­gest con­tainer ships in the world. The Brexit vote has so far not af­fected the DP world’s busi­ness strat­egy in the UK, where it op­er­ates another port in Southamp­ton.

“Since the vote to leave the Euro­pean Union, it has been busi­ness as usual for DP World in the UK and we don’t see that chang­ing,” Ra­jeev Shankar, a com­pany spokesman said.

“We are fa­cil­i­ta­tors of global trade, and whether the UK is trad­ing more with Europe, or less with Europe, DP World in the UK, with its fully in­te­grated lo­gis­tics fa­cil­ity at Lon­don Gate­way and UK’s most pro­duc­tive con­tainer ter­mi­nal in Southamp­ton, is here to en­sure the UK can move goods in and out ef­fi­ciently, re­li­ably and safely.”

Mr Shankar ac­knowl­edged that for some of DP World’s cus­tomers, Brexit is a con­cern and there is un­cer­tainty while busi­nesses wait to see what kind of a trade deal is struck be­tween the UK and the EU. Lon­don Gate­way, he said, how­ever, is well placed to with­stand any po­ten­tially ad­verse im­pact from the Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Mean­while, he said “we will work with cur­rent and new cus­tomers to en­sure trade is as seam­less as pos­si­ble, what­ever the out­come of Brexit”.

DP World in the UK, with its fully in­te­grated lo­gis­tics fa­cil­ity... is here to en­sure the UK can move goods ef­fi­ciently RA­JEEV SHANKAR DP World spokesman

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