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Celtic consortium reveals South Wales freeport plans – updated

[ November 23, 2022   //   ]

The Celtic Freeport public-private consortium revealed its bid for a freeport in South Wales on 23 November.

The consortium partners – Associated British Ports, Neath Port Talbot Council, Pembrokeshire County Council and the Port of Milford Haven – aim to create a green investment corridor covering the ports of Milford Haven and Port Talbot to boost clean energy developments, fuel terminals, a power station, heavy engineering and the steel industry across the region.

The bid will be summited on 24 November and the Welsh Government will announce the winner in early spring 2023. It follows the Welsh and Westminster governments’ announcement in May of a scheme to create one or more freeports in Wales, paralleling the eight freeports that are now being established in England.

Both governments are open to the possibility of a multi-site freeport in Wales, and are also open to the possibility of allowing more than one freeport in Wales, should they be presented with a sufficiently compelling business case.

Bids are due at the end of November and the Welsh Government will announce the winner in early spring 2023.  

The Celtic Freeport partners said their plan could generate over 16,000 new jobs and generate up to £5.5 billion of new investment.

The Celtic Freeport would accelerate inward investment in new manufacturing  to support the roll-out of floating offshore wind from the Celtic Sea and provide the i backbone of a hydrogen economy, sustainable fuels, carbon capture, cleaner steel and low-carbon logistics. 

The bid would also harness the skills-base, industrial assets and education providers through dedicated green skills programmes.

The core team behind the bid consists of: Andrew Harston, ABP director Wales and short-sea ports; Karen Jones, chief executive, Neath Port Talbot Council; Will Bramble chief executive, Pembrokeshire County Council; and Tom Sawyer, chief executive, Port of Milford Haven.

Earlier in November, the consortium appointed technology investor and mining export Roger Maggs as its chair.

He said:  “Celtic Freeport will mobilise significant international investment into the greener industries of tomorrow. Wales cannot decarbonise, unless south west Wales finds a path to net zero. Our vision will see two new green energy ports at Port Talbot and Milford Haven build out to help create masses of green power from floating offshore wind in the Celtic Sea. This acceleration of the green economy will create thousands of high quality jobs, while turbo-charging cleaner steel production and hydrogen generation.”

For ABP, Andrew Harston, said: “We are excited to be partnering with Neath Port Talbot Council, Pembrokeshire County Council and the Port of Milford Haven on this bid, which will be transformational for the Welsh economy. It will also be vital in the push towards net-zero, with significant investments in clean energy assets, including floating offshore wind. Port Talbot is the ideal location and ABP is ready to invest over £500m in new and upgraded infrastructure to enable this.”

He added that the planned freeport would deliver 4GW of floating offshore wind by 2025 but up to 24GW by 2045. To achieve this, it would have to built the equivalent of one 300 metre tall turbine tower, include blades and massive foundations every week.

The freeport could also produce around a fifth of the UK’s green hydrogen requirements and would be a major factor in helping the Tata in Port Talbot become Europe’s first green steelworks.

Karen Jones, of Neath Port Talbot Council, added: “Energy has played an enormous role here historically. Harnessing the potential of green energy through our existing assets to create a sustainable and low carbon future is a prospect that has our full support.”

Pembrokeshire County Council’s Will Bramble commented: “The Celtic Freeport’s green investment and innovation corridor will act as a clear signal to the international investment community that south-west Wales is open for business and will remain a central pillar in the country’s green energy future.”

For the Port of Milford Haven, Tom Sawyer, stated: “I am really optimistic about the life-changing impact this level of economic regeneration can have on local families and communities, and proud that our collaborative approach will accelerate Wales towards a bright, sustainable future.”

Stena Line and Anglesey (Ynys Môn) County Council have also launched a freeport bid. Pembrokeshire County Council’s Will Bramble said that he was aware of five, possibly six freeport bids in total but added: “We’re not really that focused on who else is bidding. We want to make sure that our own bid is absolutely compelling.”

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