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Survey : Two-thirds of UK ports feel ‘somewhat confident’ about the business outlook for 2021

When asked to summarise their outlook for 2021 in one word or sentence, the word most commonly mentioned by respondents was ‘challenge

Two-thirds of UK ports feel ‘somewhat confident’ about the business outlook for 2021, a new survey shows

Another third of ports surveyed by the British Ports Association said they felt ‘not so confident’. They survey, which comes as the UK ports industry faces the challenge of adjusting to post-Brexit border controls as well as COVID-19 regulations, has been published to highlight the issues ports are currently facing and their view of the year ahead

British Ports Association (BPA)

“When asked to summarise their outlook for 2021 in one word or sentence, the word most commonly mentioned by respondents was ‘challenge’, followed by ‘uncertain’, with other responses featuring the word ‘difficult’. Some said 2021 would bring more challenges than 2020,” said the British Ports Association (BPA). “Many others, though, were optimistic, with the words ‘positive’, ‘hope’ and ‘opportunity’ also frequently mentioned. One port said ‘things can only get better…”

Ports were largely neutral regarding their view of the economic climate for the next 12 months. A quarter of ports felt positive and a quarter of respondents held a negative view.

COVID-19 has dealt a blow

These sentiments come after a tough year for ports. 87% report that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted negatively on their 2020 customer activity (equally split between a ‘substantial’ and a ‘minor’ negative impact).

Over three-quarters of respondents stated that their revenue had fallen since this time last year.

Regarding the cost of COVID-19 to port businesses, a third reported a cost of £0-99k and a third reported a cost of £100-499k. One-fifth of respondents reported a loss of £1-10m.

Ports were broadly evenly split regarding whether their port is investing in new business services, property, or infrastructure in the coming quarter. 31% reported that they are investing substantially, 26% reported a moderate amount, 24% stated a small amount, 19% stated they were not investing at all.

The survey results have been published as a letter has been published to the UK government from the CBI, the British Chambers of Commerce, the manufacturers’ group Make UK, the Federation of Small Businesses and the Institute of Directors, warning that exporter are facing significant challenges at ports.

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