More Than One In Ten Port Regulations In Need Of Urgent Reform

Safety loopholes, new rules on development, and the framework for securing additional energy capacity are amongst the regulations topping a new list of priorities for reform published today by the British Ports Association.

The British Ports Association’s new regulatory assessment maps out 140 rules and regulations across the UK that ports must comply with, ranking each on how well they work in practice.

Nearly half of the 17 regulations identified as needing major or urgent change are linked to sustainability and planning, although half of the sustainability linked regulations were ranked ‘green’ as fit for purpose. The BPA supports robust regulatory standards for industry and in each case supports the aim of the regulations, but would like to see reform to see them work better for both industry and the environment.

The regulatory map is illustrative and does not cover every regulation that affect ports. For instance, general rules that effect businesses or councils that own or operator ports, and reporting rules for larger businesses, are not included.

Mark Simmonds, Director of Policy at the British Ports Association said: “The BPA supports a regulatory framework that protects employees, our borders, the environment and a competitive market. Mapping port regulation is about usually about identifying areas where policy and legal frameworks can be improved rather than removed.

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For some of these issues, like closing the loophole allowing recreational sailors to drink alcohol whilst navigating vessels, we have been asking for a resolution for years. Others, like the incoming changes to terrestrial development in England, have not come into force yet but will have a major impact for ports. A fast and efficient marine and terrestrial planning framework is critical to ports’ competitiveness and it is no surprise that planning issues top the list of concerns.

This exercise reveals the complexity of the broader regulatory framework that ports operate under. More and more of this is put in place by government departments other than the Department for Transport or their devolved equivalents. This often means that officials are building policy frameworks without the expertise of specialists in DfT. The ports industry must therefore work harder to ensure its voice is heard across government and, increasingly, in Parliament.

The BPA will continue to pursue these priorities as part of our objectives for 2023 and beyond in a constructive way with governments across the UK.”

A new directory, at sets out brief reasoning for the rating of each individual piece of legislation, code or guidance.

The map and directory cover seven themes, which we have organised in the style of a rail map:

  • Transport & General
  • Borders & Trade
  • Security
  • Planning
  • Energy & Utilities
  • Safety
  • Environment & Sustainability

Some of the entries marked as ‘red’ are listed below. The full 17 along with short explanations can be found in the directory. These are the BPA’s priorities for change with Government, although the Association engages on many of the 140 items and regularly raises the ‘amber’ items, which generally require updating or small changes.

We recognise that regulation is important to protect people, businesses and the environment. When designed and implemented well, good regulation can shape markets for the better and support innovation, investment, prosperity and sustainable growth.

A ‘red’ or ‘amber’ rating does not necessarily mean we want to see the regulation scrapped entirely. In many cases we support the wider ambition or aim behind it but do not think the approach works for ports.

Many of the biggest concerns revealed by this exercise are regulations that put a brake on sustainable development such as the system for securing new energy capacity for ports. This is crucial to support maritime decarbonisation. Marine licensing is another area that is marked in need of urgent improvement; the system needs improvement but also proper resourcing from governments and this will be critical if ports are to build the infrastructure needed to support the UK’s ambitions for offshore wind.

The map and regulatory directory will be kept under review.

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