Brexit could ‘severely’ impact Rock’s maritime sector
Shipping activity in the Port of Gibraltar could be “severely affected” by any post-Brexit disruption at the border, according to the Gibraltar Port Authority.
While ship refuelling at anchor is the mainstay of Gibraltar’s maritime sector, local companies rely on the border to offer ship owners additional services ranging from stores and spares to crew changes.
With other ports in the Strait of Gibraltar keen to capture a larger share of the region’s bunkering market, being able to provide ancillary services is often the key to maintaining an edge over the competition.
The fear in the maritime sector is that uncertainty about the impact of Brexit on border flow could dampen Gibraltar’s appeal in a market where it has long been the regional leader.
The concerns were set out by the Gibraltar Port Authority in a submission to the Gibraltar Inquiry being conducted by the EU Select Committee in the House of Lords.
The GPA noted that around 30% of the bunker fuel supplied in Gibraltar was stored in Algeciras.
“Whilst, in principle, a restricted land border should not affect the provision of bunker fuel across the sea border, specifically from storage in Algeciras, there exists an element of uncertainty as to whether Spanish manoeuvres in a post-Brexit scenario may have an effect in this area and place at risk Gibraltar’s important bunker business, the port’s principal activity,” the GPA submission states.
“Uncertainty over restrictions on movement across the land border - stores, spares, provisions and crew members - in the minds of ship owners and operators may drive them to alternative ports, all else - bunker prices - being equal.”
The GPA also noted that much of the maritime expertise that Gibraltar relied on – including ship surveyors and other such specialists – crossed in from Spain as needed in order to service ships in the port and at anchor in the Bay of Gibraltar.
“Loss of this resource will reduce the attraction of Gibraltar to visiting ships,” the GPA said.
But there is another long-term concern too for the port, one to do with planning and space.
In its submission to the Commons committee, the GPA noted that around 88% of all goods imported into Gibraltar arrived overland via the border, including all the food and fuel consumed on the Rock.
In the extreme circumstance that access to commercial and industrial traffic is severely hindered or even denied at the border, the only alternative would be to import goods by sea.
“Even if possible at all, this would entail the entire reconfiguration of the port,” the GPA submission says.