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New European port regulation threatens UK

LONDON: March 04, 2016. The Centre for Economic Policies (CEP), a pro-market think-tank, warns that the European Commission's Ports Services Regulation (PSR), due for debate by the European Parliament, will pose a serious risk to the future of the UK ports industry.

Noting several concessions in the latest PSR draft that pander to "continental trade union interests", the CEP said this third iteration is more likely to be accepted by the Parliament.

Felixstowe Logistics Park The EC says the PSR is meant to improve competitiveness in mainland European Union ports where 80 percent are run by state or local authorities. This is in contrast to the UK where 15 of the 20 largest UK ports are private sector operations.

As a result, virtually all UK ports are privately funded and require no taxpayer subsidy. The CEP said new capacity at the port of Felixstowe (right) and Southampton was developed with 100 percent private capital - compared to €1.1 billion and €788 million of public funds for new facilities at Rotterdam and Hamburg respectively.

According to the think-tank, Britain's port industry is the second largest in Europe handling 500 million tonnes of freight per year. The UK Ports Industry Association says investment is averaging £400 million a year and workers are 1.3 times more productive than the UK's economic average.

The CEP said the UK government and the UK Major Ports Group are concerned the PSR aims to regulate market access to port services, port charges and financial transparency with "serious negative consequences for job creation and investment".

The think-tank also noted the new regulation would not be applied equally with the EC considering port investments in its Block Exemption Regulation, while some MEPs want their local ports to be protected from the proposed regulation.

The CEP said it wants the UK government and all UK MEPs to resist any attempt to allow further state subsidies of EU ports; insist on the PSR not applying to the UK; and ensure an amendment that would remove privately financed ports from its scope.

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