Of course UK ports in their worst year since 1983

UK ports are in for their worst year since 1983 after dwindling North Sea oil production and Brexit caused a massive drop in cargo volumes.

Cargo handled at UK ports is expected to reach around 408 million tonnes this year, down 13.5%, according to research by Drewry Maritime Advisors commissioned by the UK’s Major Ports Group. compared to 2019.

Demand for consumer goods and some other industries such as building materials recovered quickly from the first lockdown in 2020, along with global disruption supply chain has caused some congestion at UK ports.

However, UK ports There has been a dramatic drop in oil production, which plays an important role in UK trade and accounts for about a third of the output of ports.

Oil production at several locations in the North Sea has been disrupted due to reduced energy demand as people travel less because of the pandemic.

The end of the Brexit transition period earlier this year contributed to the decline as the volume of bundled goods – including a range of consumer and commercial goods – fell sharply due to border controls. new world and driver shortage.

Tim Morris, chief executive of the UK’s Major Seaports Group, the trade body for the biggest operators, said it had been a “challenging year” and that the “shocks of the pandemic had accelerate long-term structural changes such as the shift away from oil and the impact of decarbonisation on the UK economy”.

Line chart of annual cargo volumes ('000 tonnes) showing UK port volumes falling to lowest level since 1983

While volumes will start to recover this year, they are not expected to reach pre-pandemic levels until 2026 as demand for oil and gas products continues to decline as the UK moves forward. implementation of decarbonization plans.

The data release shows a drop in the amount of oil handled by UK ports following Royal Dutch Shell’s withdrawal last week from the controversial Cambo project in the North Sea amid intense controversy over the need to increase energy security by investing in domestic fossil fuel production.

UK oil demand has been falling since 2005 due to the shift of the energy system to renewables. That has led to a long-term decline in bulk throughput through ports in Scotland, which receive supplies from the North Sea, and other ports near refineries such as Southampton and Immingham.

The drop in output comes as UK ports, which are largely owned by the private sector, need to invest in infrastructure such as electric chargers to reduce the carbon footprint of shipping. Executives argue that government support is needed to make those investments a reality.

The bright spot in the coming years will be container ports, the report said, thanks to an increase in demand for consumer goods from Asia and bulk cargoes such as steel and other materials being imported. used in construction.

Morris says ports have been investing and growing their businesses in higher growth categories such as containers and unaccompanied trailers, as well as alternative revenue streams that are less dependent on into large volumes such as logistics, warehousing and green energy, including production for wind farms, for example.

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