Bidding opens for freeport status in England but ports need more time to put forward their case

Wed 18 Nov 2020
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News


Bidding is open for freeport status in the UK, but ports are calling for more time to put together their proposals.

The government has opened a 12-week window in which port owners and operators can put forward their case to be included in the development of 10 new freeports.

More time needed

Tim Morris, chief executive at UK Major Ports Group, said it would be challenging to present detailed proposals within the given schedule.

The industry is currently grappling with the impact of coronavirus pandemic and the upcoming end of the transition period.

He told Loadstar: “This is a particularly difficult time for port operators, who are working hard to keep pandemic-impacted supply chains moving and preparing to mitigate the impact of UK/EU border disruption. Simply put, bidders need more time”.

London interest

DP World and Forth Ports, who operate London Gateway and the Port of Tilbury respectively, said they planned a joint bid to develop a Thames Freeport, with “Ford’s Dagenham engine plant at its heart”.

The bid is backed by the City Corporation of London, Essex Chamber of Commerce, London First, Port of London Authority, Thames Estuary Growth Board, Thurrock Council and the South East LEP.

Stuart Wallace, chief operating officer at Forth Ports, said:

“A Thames Freeport would secure the next stage in the development of our sites, attracting further foreign direct investment, while acting as a testbed for new technologies, including autonomous and electric vehicles, leading to new skills opportunities across the Thames estuary development area.”

Teesport owner PD Ports, said it would also be submitting a bid. Chief operating officer Jerry Hopkinson, said it was “a once-in-a-generation prospect”.

England only

Lloyds Loading List pointed out that the bidding is so far only open for English ports as the devolved administrations have yet to set out their development scheduled.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak hopes freeports will help reduce taxes and red tape for UK traders.

Hubs for trade

Supporters of freeports say they can become national hubs for international trade and investment, hotbeds of innovation and vehicles for job creation and regeneration.

Whitehall also considers them part of its ‘levelling up’ agenda.

However, critics warn that they tend to relocate jobs and investment rather than generate new business.