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“Welcome to the 2020 UK Ports Directory.

Kelly Tolhurst was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport in February 2020 with responsibility for, amongst others, ports and maritime. She was previously Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy from 19 July 2018 to 13 February 2020.

As the new Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, she will be responsible not only for ports and maritime, but her portfolio extends to free ports, aviation, commons shadow roads, security and civil contingencies.

The new Minister, who is a marine surveyor by trade, has a strong family connection with sailing. She grew up helping her father in their family-run boatyard. Her passion for the UK’s coastal and river areas saw her establish an All-Parliamentary Party Group for marine leisure in 2016. She is also the Patron of the Medway and Swale Boating Association, a group that aims to protect and promote all waterborne sports and pastimes.

The recent introduction of free ports (generally welcomed quite unreservedly by the ports), as well as new trade relationships, sustainability, the energy transition, connectivity, innovation, and safety are just some of the tasks the new Minister has to face this year.

The UK Government recently published a new consultation on the introduction of free ports. How free ports work is that they have a “free zone” through which certain goods can be distributed or processed without attracting customs duties. There are 10 free ports included as part of the plan, which the government hopes will deliver “port-centric” growth and boost the economies of coastal communities.

However, there is a concern shared by all ports in the UK which is hoped might be lessened somewhat by having a minister with a maritime background. The aviation sector, which is much more consumer-facing than the ports, has a much higher profile in the UK. In particular, the potential expansion of Heathrow Airport and the recent failures of some well-known, and in the case of Thomas Cook, long-established travel companies, have dominated the headlines.

There is no doubt that the previous Ports Minister Nusrat Ghani did much for the industry, and hopefully this pro-ports legacy will continue with Kelly Tolhurst.


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