Claudio Veritiero, CEO, Peel Ports Group
There is one part of our economy that offers more potential than any other right now for addressing the unique set of challenges and opportunities our country faces.
That is the maritime industry and more specifically the ports community within it.
As a nation we face ongoing disruption that we all wish to avoid, especially given the unprecedented challenges that the last two years have brought; but there are also great benefits to be gained if we make the right decisions.
Businesses trade in an increasingly global marketplace, influenced by geopolitics and complex supply chains; Covid-19 and what’s happening in Ukraine clearly underline the vulnerabilities that already exist.
For UK businesses, and those that trade with us, there is the extra factor of adjusting to Brexit, with changes in the logistics world exacerbating existing issues around congestion, skills shortages and the north/south disparity.
There is cross-party recognition that this imbalance needs to be addressed - which is between the most and least prosperous areas of the country - via the levelling-up agenda, including coastal communities.
Lastly, as an economy, we must improve our productivity and strengthen our export capabilities if we are to keep pace with our major competitors and maintain improving standards of living for all of us.
The maritime industry, surprisingly to some, spans all of these challenges. It has long been clear to those of us in the port sector that we have an important – indeed, essential – role to play in growing economies, and the response we have published to the Government’s levelling-up whitepaper seeks to set out a practical vision for the sector itself.
Ports may traditionally have been regarded as vital for the movement of goods and continuation of the supply chain, but they are much more than that. Ports are enablers of employment, regeneration, investment and sustainable futures, and their place within the local community is invaluable.
In our case, we’re a logistics partner, not just a company that ensures the safe and efficient
handling of goods over the quayside. As well as our network of ports, we offer our own shipping line, freight handling business, rail services and much more to enable the success of businesses across the UK, and indeed the world.
We have contributed £1.2 billion of investment alone into strengthening and future-proofing our operations, from Dublin and Clydeside, Lancashire, Liverpool and Manchester, down to Kent and Norfolk. These investments have unlocked major benefits such as new rail services and international trade. Crucially though, they have created sustainable opportunities for people and communities.
Peel Ports Group currently employs around 2000 staff directly and supports an estimated 4000 wider jobs indirectly. We provide training, development and apprenticeship opportunities for a huge variety of roles, from port operators and technicians, to HR advisers and accountants.
The ports sector is somewhat of a ‘hidden gem’ in the UK economy, generating investments, job opportunities and prosperity across the country. There has never been a better time, nor a more pivotal time, for us to assert our ambitions in support of the Government’s levelling-up agenda.
As the Government white paper repeatedly highlights, no single organisation can achieve the merits of true ‘levelling-up’ alone. The Government, its agencies and other bodies including local government, need to work with industry.
At Peel Ports Group, we are happy to play our part in achieving outcomes that provide shared benefits. We already have a positive impact on thousands of individuals and families across the country, and we’re ready to do much, much more.
Download our response to the Government’s levelling-up white paper and follow our social media channels for more perspectives on what we do together to strengthen our coastal communities.