2020 has been an unprecedented year for everyone and I am sure the majority of us are not sorry to say goodbye, but we enter 2021 full of optimism with the introduction of a second vaccine.
With the EU transition period ending and the impact of Covid-19, this year has demonstrated how significant our industry is to UK consumers. As an island nation with 95% of the goods in trade being transported by sea, ports have continued to provide essential services throughout the year to keep the shelves stocked. I am extremely proud of the team at Portsmouth who have demonstrated positivity, efficiency and adaptability maintaining critical freight routes. We have once again demonstrated how quickly we can adapt to changes with France introducing restrictions to those travelling from the UK. Testing facilities were set up at the port, thanks to volunteers and staff who worked over the festive period to make sure drivers could travel.
2021 already feels like it will be a much better year with the introduction of a second vaccine. As restrictions ease and a pent up demand for holidays abroad, we hope to see the return of increased passenger numbers by Easter for both cruise and ferry. Our newly extended berth, which was constructed during the pandemic, is ready for the return of cruising. Highlights for next year include hosting the naming ceremony for Saga’s Spirit of Adventure and the return of Fred Olsen.
The way the UK will trade with the EU was given Royal Assent and is the biggest change in a generation. We still have challenges with a shortfall in funding for developing government infrastructure at the port in time for physical checks of imports from the EU by 1 July, however we are working with our local MP’s, Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt and Stephen Morgan, and the Leader of the Council, Gerald Vernon-Jackson, to find a solution. With their support, I am confident that we will rise up to the challenge.
The new trade agreement means changes to documentation for both imports and exports from tomorrow. Trader awareness, particularly for export freight, has been a concern and we are grateful to the Hampshire and Isle of Wight LRF for planning and implementing Operation Transmission, which will provide triage checks prior to freight arriving at the port for a few weeks as drivers get used to the changes.
Traders are already looking for alternative solutions to the challenges expected at the short crossings in Kent. As we serve the Western Channel and are recognised as a resilience port, Brittany Ferries have re-introduced the Portsmouth / Le Harve sailings, as part of a framework agreement with the DfT to support critical freight. The Galicia, a larger ferry equipped to handle more freight, has come into service following a spectacular Portsmouth arrival. We look forward to seeing the Salamanca later in the year for a similar reception. Spain to Portsmouth will be a growth area in 2021, as we continue to field new enquiries for both unaccompanied trailer and container business.
We have been through an incredibly challenging year but I am confident that 2021 will see the port bounce back quickly with the introduction of new trade opportunities and rise up to the challenges in the way our border will operate with the EU.
Have a safe, happy and healthy new year.