Freight News, Sea

Freeport consultation gets underway – updated

[ February 10, 2020   //   ]

The Government has opened a ten-week consultation on creating up to ten freeports and hopes that the first can begin operating in 2021.  Sea, air and inland ports would be able to bid for freeport status, with up to ten being created around the country.

In a statement, chief secretary to the Treasury, Rishi Sunak said: “Freeports will unleash the potential in our proud historic ports, boosting and regenerating communities across the UK,”, said in a statement. They will attract new businesses, spreading jobs, investment and opportunity to towns and cities up and down the country. This is all part of our mission as an open, outward-looking country, championing global free trade with vibrant Freeports that work for all of the UK.

Secretary of State for International Trade, Liz Truss, added: “We are taking back control of our trade policy, and opening every corner of the UK to opportunities across the world.”

EU rules have until now prevented the UK from setting up freeports.

The government said that Freeports “will also offer an exciting opportunity for cutting-edge customs, transport and green technologies to be trialled in controlled environments, before being adopted more widely in relevant sectors of the economy. The Government will work in close partnership with the Devolved Administrations so that all nations of the UK are able to share in the benefits of Freeports.”

In addition to cashflow advantages such as freedom for VAT and duty  for goods imported into freeports, the Government said it is considering tax measures to boost investment in Freeports or to incentivise as well as reducing the cost of hiring workers working at Freeport sites.

In response, the chief executive of the UK Major Ports Group, Tim Morris welcomed the consultation, saying: “Experience from around the world demonstrates that freeports can be transformational in the right circumstances. For the UK they offer the opportunity to boost global gateways for trade and grow investment and jobs in coastal communities around the UK. It’s vital that the government sees freeports as more than just about tariffs – aspects like planning, connectivity and skills are essential. The process to achieving freeport status must be a credible one, open to compelling bids and fair and evidence based in the selection of locations.”

PD Ports chief operating officer and vice chairman Jerry Hopkinson meanwhile said he believed “there is no better case than Teesport for Free Port status”.

Hopkinson added: “We have one of the deepest rivers in the UK and can take some of the world’s biggest ships. Depending on the cargo, we think the River Tees can handle more than 80m tonnes. Free Port status could help to drive industry, which is globally moveable, to choose to locate here in the Tees Valley.”

PD Ports would continue to put a strong case to Government during the public consultation, working alongside key stakeholders, businesses along the River Tees, the North East England Chamber of Commerce and the Tees Valley Mayor “to seize the opportunities that lie ahead for our region”.