BCP Portsmouth Port Credit Port of Portsmouth
Photo: port of Portsmouth

The UK government must allow ports to bulldoze infrastructure built for planned sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) checks to “prevent a money drain”.

British Ports Association (BPA) CEO Richard Ballantyne said leaving these “white elephant” facilities vacant was wasting ports’ money and impeding their ability to recoup the costs involved in building infrastructure for SPS controls that were abandoned last month.

“The BPA is not only arguing for the government to compensate ports for the wasted cost of these facilities, but for it to approve bulldozing them,” Mr Ballantyne told The Loadstar.

“This would mean they could turn them into something useful, be it storage or something else, rather than leaving them as white elephants, subject to business rates, security costs and skeleton energy bills.”

Ports invested millions developing border control posts (BCPs), around £4m ($5.03m) for one, according to an estimate; now, due to their bespoke requirements, they have struggled to attract new tenants.

Mr Ballantyne said he did not expect every port would destroy the facilities, but government should permit them to make that choice, adding: “We expect most would probably like the land back.”

Minister for opportunities and government efficiency Jacob Rees-Mogg who announced the cancellation of the SPS plans, said the government would publish a target operating model in Autumn that would “set out our new regime of border import controls”.

He has purportedly claimed the new model would be fully digitised, with no need for physical checks, although sources say other government ministers have refuted this.

In the meantime, some ports have imposed “customs clearance fees”, which industry insiders said were intended as “insurance against the cost of examinations”, while others described them as a “a bullshit money-making exercise”.

Mr Ballantyne said: “I fully sympathise with shippers, but the decision to remove SPS also removed the potential to recoup costs of completing the associated infrastructure, leaving ports out of pocket on the initial investment and paying for the costs of their existence.

“If the government agrees to compensate ports and let them get rid of the SPS facilities for revenue-generating sites, we may see ports reverse these charges.”

The Loadstar contacted HMRC for a response, but did not receive a reply.

Comment on this article

You must be logged in to post a comment.