British Ports Association

British Ports Welcome Extended Furloughing Scheme as UK Economy Reawakens

May 13, 2020 - The British Ports Association (BPA) has welcomed the announcement by the Chancellor on May 12 that the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will be extended for an additional four months in the UK, until the end of October. This will help ports recover as the UK economy starts to reawaken.

The UK’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme was launched in March. It allows employers to stand down workers but then claim a cash grant of up to 80% of their wages, capped at £2,500 a month. The money is claimed by the company and distributed to staff, so individuals don’t have to do anything themselves. Some employers decide to make up the 20% difference, some do not.

Sara Walsh, Corporate Services Manager at the British Ports Association, who has been leading on much of the COVID-19 response for the sector, including developing the BPA’s industry-wide ‘Ports Coronavirus Information Hub’ said, “The announcement regarding furloughing is good news for UK ports. This has been by far the most useful Coronavirus support mechanism for ports, and unlike other measures such as those for commercial tenants which has left many ports out of pocket, it has not led to knock-on effects elsewhere.

“The ports industry is cooperating closely with the Department for Transport and other government agencies and the availability of PPE is becoming an issue. PPE supplies such as sanitiser and masks are beginning to run low in some ports.

“To date, the Government has advised that masks and gloves are not required outside the clinical environment although some employers have been allocating equipment to staff as a resilience measure. Masks can also be a normal requirement for some roles, for example to protect from breathing in dust particulate.

“As the general public are now encouraged to wear face coverings when on public transport and in some shops this could cause strain on mask supplies, which are already stretched. We recently surveyed our port members and 44% reported issues sourcing PPE. Some ports have also reported substantial price increases which could indicate profiteering in supply chains which alongside supply issues will cause significant problems for the sector. This is wrong and should be stamped out.”

Alongside the guidance for businesses, the Department for Transport has also issued guidance for transport operators in England. It includes some useful information for ports about queuing, crowd management, cleaning, ventilation, communication and training.

Walsh added, “While some of the government’s new suite of guidance documents for businesses and transport operators are broadly speaking relevant to the ports and wider maritime sector, they are quite general in nature and are designed to be applicable for all types of organisations.”

SOURCE: British Ports Association