The Freight Transport Association's Scottish Freight Council has called for the Scottish Executive and Scottish MPs to lobby the UK Government for investment in the ports of south-east England.
A key message coming from the Scottish shipper members of FTA at the January meeting of the Scottish Logistics and Supply Chain Forum was that it was vital for Scotland's economy that the UK retained port of call status for its south-east ports as they were the key economic gateway for exports from and imports to Scotland via fit for purpose Anglo-Scottish rail freight routes, now that Scotland had largely lost its own direct port of call status.
Chris MacRae, FTA's Rail Freight and Global Supply Chain Policy Manager explained, 'Given Scotland's geographical position, the danger of feeder shipping routes being used is that this adds further to the cost of moving goods. It is time that the UK Government invested in the larger UK ports to enable larger vessels to dock as direct calls – the south-east ports are now Scotland's export and import gateways.
'FTA's policy response on the Ports Review calls for more investment in infrastructure to and from ports and for planning procedures to be simplified. This is in line with the Eddington Report and the Barker Review on the planning process. Port investment and improved rail routes to the south coast ports are needed, together with gauge improvements. Coastal feeder routes are an option for Scotland but must not be the only solution – shippers must have choice. Shipping lines should also offer the rail option to their Scottish customers.
'Using feeder routes adds three days to delivery time and should a feeder ship be missed, probably because of road congestion, this could mean a seven day delay. Common sense has to prevail with regard to support for UK ports because the feeder routes to Rotterdam from the UK add to supply chain costs – if the UK itself becomes the end of a feeder route, then that further increases the costs of Scotland's supply chain.'
The Department for Transport is due to issue its Ports Review in the spring.