Freight News, Sea

Freeports – Chancellor names eight lucky winners

[ March 3, 2021   //   ]

The Chancellor has chosen eight locations for the first freeports in England in today’s Budget.
They are: East Midlands Airport, Felixstowe/Harwich, Liverpool, Humber, Plymouth, Solent, Thames and Teesside. 

However the British Ports Association said more designations could be needed elsewhere to prevent regions losing out. BPA chief executive Richard Ballantyne, described them as “an interesting selection” He looked forward to a continuing a partnership with ministers who rightly recognise the critical role that ports can play in anchoring prosperity and supporting important industries in our coastal communities.

He added: “We hope that Government will keep an open mind on further bids in England and perhaps reconsider proposals for those ports not successful today, which still play a foundational role in supporting a number of growing sectors from logistics to offshore wind to tourism. Some elements of the freeports programme could easily be spread much further, helping to create more productive and high quality jobs without incurring significant costs to the exchequer or requiring complex oversight or administration. This would also help ease fears from sections of the industry about the Government’s intervention and perception of ‘picking winners’.”

Chief executive of the UK Major Ports Group, Tim Morris, said “It’s good to see ambitious and exciting bids all around the coast of the UK recognised. The UK Major Ports Group will be establishing a Freeports Industry Users Group to take forward key aspects of implementation. We look forward to continuing to work closely with Governments in Westminster and the Devolved Administrations to make freeports a reality.”
“However, freeports alone are not a silver bullet for addressing deprivation in coastal communities. The Government should look at extending some of the low cost, pro-investment measures in the freeports ‘tool box’ to port areas more widely.”

PD Ports, owners and operators of Teesport and an integral part of the winning Teesside bid, said it was “immensely grateful to the Government for awarding this opportunity to the Tees Valley”.
It marked the beginning of a new chapter in the Tees Valley’s renaissance – Freeport status will enable PD Ports to continue to attract investment and deliver jobs across the region.
Stuart Wallace, chief operating officer at Forth Ports (owner of the Port of Tilbury, part of the Thames bid), said: “The freeport policy’s special economic measures will turbocharge the best of the private sector, attracting value add manufacturing activity to the ports, the Thames Estuary and the wider South East, alongside supporting key infrastructure projects in the coming years. The Thames Freeport will be that catalyst to level up the left behind communities along the estuary.”
Maria Machancoses, director of regional transport body, Midlands Connect, said: “It’s fantastic news that East Midlands Airport has been confirmed as the location of one of eight UK Freeports, as well as the Humber Freeport, which contains Immingham Port in Lincolnshire. We will now work in earnest with local authorities to make sure these site are well-connected, and that businesses have the road and rail infrastructure needed to trade with local, national and international partners.”

George Kieffer, chairman of the Freeport East Project Board, which encompasses Felixstowe and Harwich said: “We are delighted to have been chosen by the Chancellor as one of the first new Freeports in the UK for a number of years. Freeport East offers a unique opportunity to build a truly global trade hub at the same time as accelerating opportunities in green energy and helping level-up the economy. We look forward to working with Government to further develop our business plan and to realising the potential that this opportunity represents.”

Clemence Cheng, executive director of Hutchison Ports, which owns both ports, added: “Freeport East is the perfect location to develop a new Freeport. Its position on the main global shipping routes, and with frequent services over to Europe, makes it the ideal place to attract inward investment. It has 50% of the UK’s offshore wind capacity on its doorstep and, working with our partners we will help drive developments in green energy for use in the transport sector as well as across the wider economy.”

But director general of the British International Freight Association (BIFA), Robert Keen, said: “To date, BIFA has been indifferent to this proposed development, and queries whether freeports will provide new advantages compared to the existing Customs Special Procedures, which from 1 January 2021 no longer need a guarantee to operate.”
He was more positive about other measures in the Budget, including retention of the fuel duty freeze and the additional £126 million announced for apprenticeships and the raising of the cash incentive for employers to £3,000. He added that it “may help BIFA’s campaign to encourage companies to consider recruiting youngsters and enrolling them on the International Freight Forwarding specialist apprenticeship, which BIFA helped to create in 2018.
“However, there was no mention of the issues facing the aviation sector in either the announcement of the roadmap out of recovery, nor the Budget. This is a concern because a recovery in the passenger sector with an increasing number of flights carrying belly hold cargo will be necessary to allow the air cargo sector to fully recover.”