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National resilience strategy can create a vision for UK’s future economy
9 July 2020
The pandemic has brought the UK’s vulnerabilities to the fore, but the challenges of recovery stand to be compounded by the end of the transition period at the start of next year. There is, however cause for optimism.
Having just completed the construction of a new £250 million Brexit-ready and COVID-19 compliant freight ferry terminal – Tilbury2, there are huge opportunities that can only be exercised with government purpose.
We need a long-term resilience strategy underpinned by in-depth analysis that examines a range of weaknesses, from the frailties of our supply chains, future skills shortages to the residual capability required to maintain critical supplies in times of extreme need. All backed up by sustained action to address identified weaknesses.
Amidst the terrible consequences of COVID-19, one of the few upsides has been an improved environment and recommitment to climate protection, and a focus on the efficiency and resilience throughout supply chains.
There’s growing belief that the COVID-19 pandemic will bring major changes and accelerate the transition to a lower carbon world. Breakdown of production lines, unpredictable industrial relations and increasing pan-European lorry driver shortages have led many in the logistics industry to examine the reliability of their current delivery options.
Throw in the need to build on a levelling-up agenda, this leaves a big opportunity for Government and the freight sector to recalibrate the public policy, regulatory and fiscal system to deliver sustained investment in low carbon infrastructure that supports coastal communities.
As we approach the end of the transition period and move towards a net zero future, the effort to scrutinise the financial, human and environmental cost of moving components, goods and materials across Europe and further afield will heighten. This will lead to asking if its sustainable to use lorries in the way we do now.
Being in the EU has distorted the UK’s freight market, but, ironically, Brexit is unlikely to be the fission that delivers the lasting change that many anticipated.
Many port communities have long since left behind the original source of their wealth, but by bringing goods closer to the point of consumption or production, we could and should see new ferry and container shipping routes springing up. Combined with inward rail links, these viable new routes might answer many questions of our time.
This is the vision we have for the ports across our group at Forth Ports serving the key business and consumer markets in the South East, London and east coast of Scotland.
Our new feeder service from the country’s most advanced deep-sea container port, London Gateway, to Scotland’s road, rail and sea freight hub at Grangemouth is a clear demonstration of how the market is shifting.
Trans-ship direct from a European or UK hub port via a coastal feeder vessel – eliminating the long domestic road leg and the logistics industry’s dependency on a diminishing pool of drivers willing to transit across Europe – by utilising an unaccompanied ferry or container freight route.
Over the past decade, there’s been a 39% increase in the number of unaccompanied freight units leaving the UK to Europe, a figure likely to increase after Brexit.
The queues of lorries at Channel ports recently are testament to the fact that unaccompanied freight movements align with COVID-19 regulations, as they reduce the risk to driver-to-driver contact on ferries or train and the need for additional paperwork. This scene is a vision into whatfuture freight travel might resemble.
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