The introduction next month of a surcharge on imports at the Port of Felixstowe is bad for British business and could set a precedent for ports and airports around the UK. Following a meeting with port operators Hutchison, the Freight Transport Association's British Shippers' Council is calling on the Government to fulfil the role played by governments across the world, and to take responsibility for improving the UK's transport network beyond ports and airports when these vital transport hubs are expanding.
FTA's Head of Rail Freight and Global Supply Chain Policy, Christopher Snelling said, 'The surcharging of users of ports will add directly to the cost of the UK's supply chain, raising costs to businesses as well as the end consumer. It will also act as a further disincentive for shipping lines to call at the UK at a time when the UK's status as a 'Port of Call' is already under threat. It is the role of Government to fund rail and road investments for which it has a responsibility to society as a whole. It is notable that no other major industrialised country, including the United States, has pursued such a policy.
'FTA members fear that this surcharge will set a precedent – the direct charging of the shipper at ports and airports across the UK for development of the wider transport network. The UK will be at an increasingly competitive disadvantage compared to mainland Europe as a place to do business if the cost of using UK ports of entry goes up in this fashion.'
FTA wants to see the Government use its forthcoming Ports Policy paper (due at the end of this month) to commit to taking responsibility for rail and road enhancement beyond ports and airports. FTA is also unhappy with the way Hutchison has handled the situation. Snelling said, 'Hutchison has imposed this scheme without any consultation with industry. We would have wanted them to sit down with us much earlier and discuss the problem they face.
'In a meeting with Hutchison after the surcharge had been announced we raised a number of concerns regarding the scheme and the rationale behind it, but there will be limited time for them to take on board these comments ahead of the April start date. Consequently FTA has now asked them to delay the commencement of the surcharge, to allow them time to react to the issues we have raised.'