BPA Responds to DIT Free Ports Announcement

The British Ports Association has welcomed the Government’s announcement of “up to 10 new freeports”. The BPA has developed ambitious complementary Port Enterprise and Development Zone proposals.

Commenting on the announcement, Richard Ballantyne, Chief Executive at the British Ports Association said:

“We are pleased that Ministers recognise the vital economic role that ports play and we are keen to explore with the Government how this can be boosted further. We also welcome additional focus on how ports can further support national and regional economies.

Many of the benefits of a traditional ‘free port’ can be achieved in the UK through existing processes, but we look forward to working with Government on how a UK-specific model can boost sustainable development in and around ports and add real value.

The British Ports Association is working with ports and airports on ambitious complementary proposals for ‘Port Enterprise & Development Zones’ that will support economic activity across a much wider range of ports all across the UK. These proposals contain a series of recommendations around planning, enterprise and the tax system that could be incorporated into or sit alongside a UK freeport model. As well as Teesport, ports like Milford Haven and Tyne are at an advanced stage in looking at such options.

The potential selection of 10 UK Free Port sites could be transformational for some locations but three will need to be some balance to ensure that this ports which don’t have status are not disadvantaged. Having Free Port status could be a beneficial marketing asset which helps attract inward investment and the Government will need to satisfy itself that this is not at the expense of other UK locations. That’s why we are proposing the wider concept of a Port Zone status, alongside the Free Port proposals, at all UK Ports might be a way to encourage the industry to grow cohesively.

It will be important that any Free Port designations are industry led. The newly formed advisory DIT Panel should therefore take a bottom up approach and avoid where possible political pressures.

Ports are also important economic hubs in their own right and are often the centre of broader economic landscape. Many businesses recognise the economic and environmental benefits of being based in and around UK ports. Ports are gateways for 95% of the UK’s international trade but are also the foundation of the wider marine economy including everything from offshore wind to marine recreation and tourism.“

Alongside the well publicised Teesport proposals other ports are pursuing free port proposals, as noted by the Department for International Trade’s press release, including the Port of Tyne and the Port of Milford Haven.

At the Port of Tyne a site could support advanced manufacturing through a multiple site designation a ‘virtual free port’ which could include local manufacturers such as Nissan.

In Pembrokeshire around the UK’s largest energy port, Milford Haven, a port zone could support the oil and gas cluster, promote reshoring of some fish processing and bolster marine energy generation deployment.