15 May 2020
The British Ports Association is today calling on Ministers to rule out imposing quarantine measures on short sea ferry passengers.
Travellers from France and Ireland are already exempt along with freight drivers – which covers the vast majority of passengers on routes that are currently operating. Passengers from France are exempt under a bilateral agreement between the UK and France.
The BPA – whose membership covers all the main ferry and cruise port activities in the UK – is keen to move towards a recover in passenger markets. The Association argues that social distancing is perhaps more feasible on board ferries and at ports where vehicle transport is abundant, and that the risk from other countries not currently included in the exemptions is comparably low to that from France and Ireland.
Countries currently covered under quarantine plans include the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain between which there are currently extremely limited passenger flows. The BPA wants to ensure that legitimate travel is not unnecessarily limited in future.
Richard Ballantyne, Chief Executive of the British Ports Association, said:
“The industry is 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 to 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 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 to mirror the sensible steps taken with the French. The industry is also urging Ministers to clarify that hauliers and other key maritime workers will be exempt.