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British Ports seeking funds to fight coronavirus spread

The British ports industry is
requesting further support for port health authorities to prevent coronavirus
spreading and impacting businesses.

As the number of new confirmed
cases of the Wuhan COVID-19 grows, particularly in mainland Europe, the British
Ports Association (BPA) has today written to the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock
MP to outline the UK port sector’s growing concerns.

In the letter, the BPA’s Chief
Executive Richard Ballantyne requested that the UK government find additional
resources so that port health authorities, working in conjunction with public
health bodies, are fully prepared for any emergency controls that need to be
implemented as a result of the coronavirus.

The BPA has also noted that some
UK ports feel they have been put in the position of having to make decisions on
health matters for which they are not qualified.

In the UK, port health
authorities, who are managed and resourced by local authorities, are
responsible for developing health controls at seaports and airports and are
tasked with preventing the introduction of dangerous epidemic diseases through
shipping activity without creating unnecessary disruptions to world trade.

Commenting on the letter sent to
the Health Secretary, Richard Ballantyne, Chief Executive at the BPA said:
“UK ports have been working
closely with relevant authorities to prepare for and guard against the spread
of the Wuhan coronavirus. Ports have highlighted though that it is acutely
obvious local port health authorities, who are resourced by local authorities,
are in real need of additional resources to prepare for such emergency

“The current risks from direct
traffic arriving from Chinese ports is relatively low… However, ports are
acting vigilantly and as the virus appears now to be spreading around Europe,
the sector is bracing itself for new risks and challenges. Short sea sailings
and flights could be subject to new measures but some UK port health
authorities are frantically attempting to prepare,” he added.

While approximately 70% of the
UK’s immigration is facilitated by air, a sizeable 30% of passenger movements
are handled by seaports. Along with domestic ferry services, there are over 60
million passenger movements each year and the BPA represents all the UK’s ports
who facilitate this traffic.

“Current market data shows that
the impact of the Coronavirus is expected to be greater than SARS given the
service sector has a greater share of the Chinese economy, China accounting for
a significant amount of global seaborne imports and global shipbuilding, and
the majority of ship repair,” Ballantyne added.

“Currently we understand that
there are expected to be 6 million fewer global shipping container movements
and a 20% decline in Chinese-Europe trade. This along with further potential
disruptions to logistics chains in the UK lead to certain product shortages for
British businesses and consumers,” he concluded.
World Maritime News

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