Freight News, Sea

First freeports in operation by end of 2021

[ October 7, 2020   //   ]

The government has set out further details of its plans for freeports, saying that the first sites would be open for business in 2021.

Following a consultation on the proposals it has confirmed that sea, air and rail ports in England will be invited to bid for Freeport status before the end of the year. It said that it wishes to deliver freeports as soon as possible and will make further announcements in due course.

It also confirmed that freeports will benefit from a streamlined planning processes to aid brownfield redevelopment and a tax relief package, along with simplified customs procedures and duty suspensions on goods. The government promised an “ambitious new customs model, drawing on international best practice.” It would be flexible and improve upon both the UK’s existing customs arrangements and the freeports the UK had previously, it said.

The Government said it would also work with the devolved administrations to enable the creation of freeports in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and would seek to establish at least one freeport in each nation of the UK.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, who was instrumental in getting the freeports concept off the ground while a junior minister said: “Our new freeports will create national hubs for trade, innovation and commerce, regenerating communities across the UK and supporting jobs. They will attract investment from around the world as we embrace new opportunities following our departure from the EU and will be a key driver for economic recovery as we build back better post coronavirus.”

The British Ports Association responded saying that it welcomed the suggestion that the government was minded to be more inclusive regarding the number of ports that could potentially be designated. The BPA has called for more freeports to be designated than the ten originally suggested.
BPA chief executive Richard Ballantyne, who has been lobbying for a port zoning economic vision akin to the freeports strategy, said: “This is a welcome development and by being more inclusive in terms of the number of freeports there might be. The Government can now explore how to better deliver on its levelling up agenda without picking regions over each other. Coastal communities are often in areas of high deprivation and have also experienced challenges from the Coronavirus pandemic and lockdown so this potentially transformative policy will be welcomed across a range of suitable locations.”