ESPO prepares Brexit position paper

The European Sea Ports Organization (ESPO) has prepared a position paper that calls on Brexit negotiators to prioritize maritime transport during the forthcoming second phase of Brexit negotiations.

ESPO Chairman Eamonn O’Reilly said that “Europe’s ports need certainty and time to adapt to the new realities post-Brexit if they are to continue to perform their vital function as nodes in intra-European supply chains. If the current short-sea fluidity is compromised, there will be no winners.”

ESPO has asked Brexit negotiators to consider the following:

• Ensuring short-sea fluidity for roll-on/roll-off and short sea services between the UK and EU 27 should be a central objective. Currently, the Customs Union and Single Market allow roll-on/roll-off vehicle traffic to call at a port without prior reservation, thus avoiding congestion on access roads to the ports and enabling businesses to rely on just-in-time logistics. ESPO said that a reintroduction of border controls at the EU-UK borders risked turning ports into bottlenecks and disrupting long-established supply chains.

• In order to effectively prepare for the reintroduction of border controls, border authorities of the UK and EU-27 Member States should already be able to discuss and coordinate at an operational level. Such talks should however only aim at preparing the ground for the different possible Brexit scenarios and should not lead to bilateral deals, ESPO said.

• ESPO asked for clarity as soon as possible on the duration and modalities of the transition period, and for sufficient time to be allowed so that ports and the broader logistics chain can prepare for the consequences of Brexit.

• If border controls were to be being reintroduced, some ports would have to reorganize the layout of their terminals, as well as have invest in innovative IT solutions and additional workforce to cope with the increased administrative burden. ESPO urged the EC to consider the costs of making “Brexit-proof” the ports that depend on EU-UK trade while preparing for the new Multi-annual Financial Framework.

• Port stakeholders should work together in order to ensure that goods can continue to flow smoothly through ports, said ESPO.

• Some shippers and operators were trading only with EU Member States. For them, Brexit will have important consequences since they do not have the administrative and logistic services nor the experience to export to countries outside the Customs Union, said ESPO. Companies, especially those operating exclusively at EU level, should be informed and advised at an early stage to enable them to prepare for the likely increase in customs declarations and procedures to comply with border control requirements.

• For European ports an appropriate EU-UK trade agreement, which preserved trade and economic growth, was an important condition for a successful Brexit, said ESPO. In the absence of such a trade agreement, import tariffs on both sides would make goods traded between the UK and EU-27 more expensive. “This could disturb existing trade routes and have a negative impact on the job creation and industry located within ports as well as on the overall traffic of ports that rely on EU-UK trade”, the organization said.