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Ports are a gamechanger in turning levelling-up from ambition to reality

Mark Whitworth

Mark Whitworth | Peel Ports

3 min read Partner content

Modern ports have evolved in recent years beyond all recognition and are perfectly poised to be a vital economic catalyst for the regions they operate within.

The sector provides critical infrastructure as the UK’s gateway for food, medical, energy and fuel supplies, and recent figures show that for every £1 in GVA directly contributed by the ports industry, a further £2.15 in GVA is generated across the wider UK economy*.

Ports make a greater contribution than both rail and air combined* and ports create highly-skilled jobs, paying an average salary of £38,000– £9,000 more than the national average*.

These statistics underline how important the sector is to the UK’s economic recovery, its broader ambitions in post-Brexit trading, and making levelling-up reality.

As the UK’s second biggest operator, we create a wide range of business and job opportunities across the supply chain and our infrastructure acts as an enabler for the development of specific economic sectors for positive regional growth.

They include direct diverse employment benefits through marine activity, cargo handling, ship operations and services, warehousing and processing, land transport, freight forwarding and customs brokering through to technology, infrastructure, government agencies and many more.

We view ourselves as a game-changer for the companies that we serve as customers, the businesses operating within our estates, and the communities we support.

Peel Port’s investment of £1.2bn in the last decade has helped open-up new international trade opportunities, bringing business to the regions in which we operate. However, there is scope to do more and to have greater impact in extending the opportunity.

The maritime sector supports over 1m jobs and adds £46.1bn to the economy**. Crucially, as far as levelling up is concerned, ports operate in virtually every coastal community in the UK.

This presents a unique opportunity to spread economic benefits in traditionally deprived areas much more equitably.

The Port of Liverpool is a case in point. A third of the workforce live within the borough of Sefton, and total full-time employment is equivalent to 3% of all private sector full-time employment in the borough. 80% of the workforce live in the Liverpool City Region which has benefited from over £500 million investment, helping to bring new jobs and business opportunities to the local area.

It’s in this space that the levelling up agenda meets what is happening in the wider world.

The entire logistics industry is facing challenges from global port congestion, HGV driver shortages, Brexit and the impact of COVID. The general turmoil in the supply chain is producing unpredictable shifts in cargo movements.

In the UK, almost 95% of vessels enter via southern ports, yet 60% are transporting goods destined for areas farther North. Using regional ports shortens the journey from the port to the end destination, often by hundreds of miles.

Taking advantage of this means having a strategic and equitable investment programme across the country. This is just one of many levers available to the partnership of government and industry.

Earlier this month, we announced our commitment to becoming a net zero port operator by 2040, ten years ahead of the UK Government’s national decarbonising targets.

As one of the largest port groups in the UK, we understand our responsibility to minimise the environmental impact of our operations for the benefit of the planet whilst also ensuring the smooth continuation of the supply chain in volatile times. 

We have serious plans to work towards achieving long-term, sustainable growth that has a positive impact on the environment as well as regional economies and local communities for generations to come.

To find out more about how the maritime sector can combine levelling up with net zero, visit

Sources: Maritime UK, Peel Ports
* “State of the Maritime Nation 2019” by CEBR for Maritime UK
** 2020 budget submission by Maritime UK


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