BPA Concerned About Quarantine Measures And Calls For Sea Bridges to Aid Economic Recovery

The British Ports Association is concerned that the new quarantine measures announced this afternoon by the Home Secretary will stifle the recovery of international maritime passenger travel. There needs to be a risk-based approach to ‘transit corridors’ and recognition that ferry travel to neighbouring countries could be much safer than other transport options.

Commenting on today’s developments, Richard Ballantyne, Chief Executive of the British Ports Association said:

“Quarantine rules could slow recovery and kill off any opportunity of a summer season for international passenger travel and tourism. We are pleased that freight workers and Irish routes are excluded from the rules, but now Ministers must put exemptions in place for other transit corridors such as France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain. Establishing ‘sea bridges’ with neighbouring European countries where the risk is low must be a high priority and the focus should not just be on aviation which has more complicated challenges.

Getting passengers moving on these routes helps support critical freight corridors and will help the industry get back on its feet. Given the space on board these ferries and the port terminals compared to airports and aviation, it is far easier to put in place required distancing and checks for passengers, where needed.

Ferry passengers are far less likely to take public transport to a port as well and as much of a journey will be in their own vehicle. Therefore there is a strong argument that ferry travel to neighbouring countries with similar health standards and coronavirus rates, is much safer than other transport modes. We need our maritime and tourism industries to help the economy to recover and we are concerned these measures will put a handbrake on this.”

The new border requirements including Government’s quarantine measures have just been announced by the Home Secretary this evening (22nd May) and will come into force from 8 June 2020 until further notice.

Last week the BPA urged caution on quarantine rules. The industry has been working very closely with Government in efforts to control the virus and key workers at ports have been helping keep borders open so essential goods can continue to flow into the country. Parts of the sector are on their knees and we need to look at how we can recover safely. Passenger travel has been hit dramatically and will take time to recover.

We are alert to the evidence and advice from Government and always put the health of employees and passengers first. We see no evidence that quarantining passengers from some European countries but not others will have a material effect on controlling the virus.

Passengers are vital to ferry, cruise and marine leisure operators and so where the risk is low, a recovery in travel and tourism industries should be encouraged to support the continued resilience of critical freight corridors. Perhaps more so that other travel modes, maritime could be the most suitable sector to begin easing restrictions, which more opportunities for social distancing in vehicles and on ships.

Quarantine measures will not affect port operations directly, although new border processes may be needed and could prevent healthy travellers from planning future trips. Freight drivers and others are, we understand, likely to be exempt from quarantining which is important for keeping the country trading.

The passenger sector is an important revenue stream for ferry companies. These ferries are responsible for bringing the majority of traded consumer goods – including food – into this country.

Tourism is vital to the economy and many regions of the UK and it will be important that when the health advice permits, international and domestic travel should be encouraged.

The BPA is calling on Government to push for bilateral agreements with other European countries where the virus is being brought under control. The industry is also urging Ministers to clarify that hauliers and other key maritime workers will be exempt.

A number of travellers and professionals and roles are exempt from the quarantine measures, including passengers travelling from Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man and also road haulage and freight workers ‘to ensure the supply of goods is not impacted’. However aside from those on Common Travel Area routes all other travellers will be required to complete and present a mandatory declaration form on arrival into the UK.