Driverless HGVs could replace much of theUK’s conventional lorry and container traffic within a generation, transforming theUK’s RORO market.

A new white paper published by theBritish Ports Associationin collaboration with freight transport consultancyMDSTransmodalforecasts big growth in the market share (to 80 per cent) of ‘driverless accompanied’ROROtraffic, particularly through North Sea and Western English Channel ports.

Technical developments and commercial and environmental pressures are expected to encourage freight operators to look at new ways to move through the British ports of the future.

The study examines how freight traffic between the British Isles and continental Europe could change in the longer term after Brexit. It plots how a large proportion of theUK’s maritime traffic will fare in 2050 under an ‘autonomy and carbon reduction’ scenario in which autonomous and ultra-low emissionHGVs have been widely deployed.

This will have impacts onUKports and shipping, but alsoUKroads and other national infrastructure such as rail links.

Chris Rowland, managing director atMDSTransmodal, said:“Technical, regulatory and economic barriers remain with regards to the deployment of autonomousHGVs on the British highways network by 2050.

“However, given the policy imperative of reducing emissions and the market-based need to increase the efficiency of road freight transport, particularly given risingHGVdriver costs, we anticipate a significant industry-wide effort to overcome these barriers.”

The British Ports Association’s policy and economic analyst Phoebe Warneford-Thomson added that “with detailed analysis and forward-thinking” the UK ports sector could turn these changes into “lucrative opportunities.”

The white paper is part of theBPA’s Port Futures Programme which examines emerging trends in the maritime industries and explores the potential opportunities and challenges to British ports over the next 50 years.