First UK Freeports to begin business in 2021

Containers and cranes at logistics port terminal with many colours aerial view from above uk

The UK Government has announced further details on how it will create a number of new Freeports which are set to be open by the end of 2021.

In a statement on 7 October the Government said that a Freeport bidding process would be opened by the end of 2020.

Responding to the consultation on the proposals the government confirmed that sea, air and rail ports in England will be invited to bid for Freeport status before the end of the year, with the government aiming for the first of the new sites to be open for business in 2021.

The original consultation period was extended at the beginning of the year because of the impact the COVID-19 pandemic had.

The statement also confirmed that the freeports will benefit from a package of tax reliefs to help drive jobs, growth and innovation. The tax reliefs will be on investment by businesses within Freeport tax sites.

In addition, streamlined planning processes will be implemented to aid brownfield redevelopment and simplified customs procedures duty suspensions on goods will be implemented.

Within the framework of a Freeport A firm can import goods without paying tariffs, process them into a final good and then either pay a tariff on goods sold into the domestic market, or export the final goods without paying UK tariffs.

Among UK ports that will bid for the opportunity to become freeports includes PD Ports which has outlined its position to have a Freeport on the River Tees during the consultation process.

Further, Forth Ports and DP World announced a partnership which will submit a joint Freeport bid incorporating the Port of Tilbury and DP World London Gateway.

Freeports will be selected through a fair, transparent and competitive process, and will be expected to collaborate closely with key partners across the public and private sectors. The Bidding Process for locations to become a Freeport in England will open by the end of 2020.

Over the summer the British Ports Association (BPA) had called for a more inclusive Freeport policy.

Citing concerns of policy makers picking winners because of the arbitrary cap of establishing up to 10 Freeports.

On 7 October, the BPS said it welcomed the suggestion that the government was minded to be more inclusive regarding the number of ports that could potentially be designated.  

Richard Ballantyne, Chief Executive of the BPA, 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 resulting from the Coronavirus pandemic and lockdown so this potentially transformative policy will be welcomed in across a range of suitable locations.”

The BPA represents the interests of over 100 port members, covering more than 400 ports, terminal operators and port facilities and has been lobbying the UK Government for a port zoning economic vision akin to the Freeports strategy.

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