The significant role the Port of Falmouth plays as an important part of the UK border was the focus of a ministerial visit to A&P on Friday.
Minister of State for Immigration at the Home Office, Mark Harper MP, heard first hand about issues regarding the entry of goods, seafarers and cruise passengers into the UK through the Port.
At a meeting at A&P Falmouth Mr Harper met company directors, port security staff and representatives from the ships in the yard. He was informed of visa rules and border checks that can cause problems for ship owners, crews and cruise line companies, which subsequently discourages trade through the Port.
As one of the county’s largest private employers, A&P Falmouth has a 400-strong skilled workforce with a £13 million annual wage bill; handles over 100 projects a year and the majority of the company purchasing is spent in Cornwall and the South West region.
As well as ship repair, A&P operates the main port facilities in Falmouth with nearly a kilometre of wharfage for cargo, cruise calls and visiting ships as well as alongside ship repair.
In 2012 the port handled 58,000 tonnes of cargo, including fertiliser and animal feed for local farmers, coal, stone and the export of recycled glass.
More than 21,000 cruise passenger visited Falmouth this year on 37 different ships.
Mike Reynolds, Port Operations Director at A&P Falmouth, said: “We wanted to highlight some inconsistencies with the rules the UK Border Agency has been imposing on seafarers, which can affect both our business and and whether ship owners choose to come to the UK. We also highlighted the policy of checking cruise passengers making a call at the Port which is discouraging cruise lines from calling at Falmouth and in all UK ports.
“We would like some clarity and consistency with the rules. The minister listened to our concerns and said he would take our points back to the Border Agency.”
Sarah Newton, MP for Truro and Falmouth, who was part of the visit, said: ‘‘I welcomed Mr Harper’s appreciation that the Port of Falmouth is an important part of the UK’s border.
“The effectiveness and efficiency of the UK’s border control system has a direct impact on Falmouth and it is important we get this right – guarding against the import of illegal produce and illegal immigration whilst minimising barriers to maritime and tourist trade.
“I know that Mr Harper listened closely to the points made at our meeting at Falmouth Docks and look forward to continuing my ongoing dialogue with him and his ministerial colleagues regarding the concerns and needs of my constituents.’’
Photo: Immigration Minister Mark Harper MP is pictured at A&P Falmouth with company directors, Port security staff and Sarah Newton MP.