With less than six months to go work is continuing at pace to prepare for the most significant changes to customs and health check import requirements in a generation, as construction for Portsmouth International Port's Border Control Post (BCP) moves into the next significant phase.
Known as the Border Operating Model, from 1 January 2022 facilities are expected to be in place to manage physical checks on imports.
Following £17.1m from the government's Ports Infrastructure Fund this signals one of the largest investment projects in the port’s history and will generate over 100 new posts required for port health, operations, customs and Border Force operations.
New purpose built facilities, which meet DEFRA specification for checking plant and products of animal origin, will include refrigerated units for chilled and frozen products, inspection rooms and cross docking abilities, where cargo can be unloaded and checked easily.
DEFRA will support funding for veterinary and port health staff, as they will be required to work shifts inspecting food and plant products.
Portsmouth's new facility provides importers with a convenient solution when looking for a port to clear their goods, when they become subject to new checks.
Mike Sellers, Portsmouth International Port director said: “The whole team is working incredibly hard to transform port operations from next year.
“We’d like to thank the government for recognising the country's second busiest cross channel port, and providing vital financial support needed to implement fundamental changes.
“Our contractors are underway on this huge development project and you'll start to see the BCP taking shape.
“Brand new facilities will be created, which required extra land because we were already at capacity.
“This has allowed us to expand and will be able to increase our role a key port, providing critical routes for UK-EU trade serving the western channel and providing resilience against the challenges of the short crossings in Kent.
“Ports are integral to the economic recovery of the country as we face the outcome of the pandemic and we are now in a position to create industry leading facilities.
"Due to a shortfall in funding we regretfully have not been able to support a live animal health check facility, necessary to check the welfare of UK animals used for breeding in the EU, however If required our construction plans would be ready to go should further funds become available.
“Green credentials are also at the forefront of our plans, as any new development has to meet our target to become the UK’s first net carbon neutral port by 2030.”
Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Leader of Portsmouth City Council said: “Our port is a huge asset and contributor to the city and the region.
“We have long since made the case the port needs to be considered when it comes to government support and this funding will support job creation and provide a much needed boost for the city as we come out of this pandemic and prepare for how we manage goods in this country.
"However the cost of the BCP exceeds the amount given by government, so even though this is a government decision the council will have to fund the shortfall as this infrastructure is critical to the port's import trade.”
Richard Lee, Portsmouth City Council's regulatory services manager said: "We have been recruiting specialist port health staff to operate the facility, who'll be working alongside DEFRA and APHA colleagues too.''
"We are undertaking the service's most significant recruitment and process delivery challenge. This is due to the number of positions required, the fact that we need people with a specific area of expertise in port health and that because we are awaiting further operational information from the government.''
Kier, a leading provider of construction and infrastructure services, was appointed to construct the new BCP.
They started enabling works on site on the 1 March 2021 and have been working closely with local supply chain partners on the project, to make sure it is operational by the new rule changes coming into force on 1 January 2022.
The site stretches across nearly two acres and the steel structure for the facility will start being constructed shortly and the shape of the BCP will start to become visible.
Opening times to be confirmed but it will have 14 loading bays, 17 cold stores able to keep goods chilled or frozen, and five inspections rooms and inspection areas.
With over 30 additional port health staff, including specialist vets who clear meat products, and eight officers from the government's Animal and Plant Health Authority (APHA) we will be able to handle a high number of consignments daily.
Mark Norris, regional director of Kier Regional Building Southern, states: “We are proud to have been appointed by Portsmouth City Council to deliver important new infrastructure at Portsmouth International Port, which is set to support the local economy for years to come.
“We will utilise our extensive technical expertise and work with our local supply chain partners to build this important border infrastructure over the coming year.”
The new facilities will be built to environmental standards, all with solar PV installed. Recruitment for the additional port health and Border Force positions is currently underway.