Harwich and Felixstowe bid for UK Freeport status

A massive container cargo ship, the CSCL Mars, unloading at Port of Felixstowe in Suffolk, Eastern England. Port of Felixstowe - ‘The Port of Britain’ - is one of Europe’s largest and busiest container ports and the biggest in the UK. It receives about 3000 ships each year from around 17 shipping lines. (Incidental people.)

The Port of Felixstowe and Harwich International Port have set out a joint vision for a new Freeport on the East Coast of the UK.

Both Ports are owned by Hutchison Ports and the new freeport would be a strategic hub linking UK importers and exporters with suppliers and customers across the globe, situated as it is at the heart of vital trading routes to Asia and Northern Europe, according to a statement.

Freeport East will build on the existing ports’ excellent road and rail links to the Midlands and the North of England – the destination for almost a third of Felixstowe’s current throughput.

The vision has been set out jointly by business and local government leaders from Essex, Suffolk, and the wider region, and work is now underway to develop a detailed bid following the publication of the Government’s Freeports prospectus this week.

George Kieffer, Chairman of the Project Board, said: “I am excited to be leading such a professional and expert team to drive forward a bid that will attract major investment and lead to increased economic prosperity not only locally, but nationally.

“The area is home to some of the most deprived wards in the UK and by bringing lasting regeneration and creating new job opportunities to the region the project will support the government’s levelling-up agenda.

“We look forward to working with universities in the region to make Freeport East a hotbed of innovation in the technologies of the 21st Century.”

Clemence Cheng, Executive Director of Hutchison Ports and Managing Director of Hutchison Ports Europe, added: “The combination of the ports of Felixstowe and Harwich offers the UK a unique opportunity in the post-Brexit world, sitting as they do at the main junction point between the UK’s principal trade route to and from the Far East and key freight links to and from northern Europe.

“Together with the leading edge technical skills that come with the partnership with universities, this combination can serve as a powerful magnet to bring new investment into the UK and in particular to the area around this unique junction point.”

The Port of Felixstowe is the UK’s largest container port – accounting for more than 40% of container imports to and exports from the UK, handling more than 4 million TEUs each year.

Harwich International Port on the Essex side of the estuary is a major ferry terminal with twice daily services to the Netherlands and a dedicated passenger rail station with frequent services to London.

The UK Government has confirmed bids for sea, air and rail ports in England to get Freeport status will be invited before the end of the year, with the government aiming for the first of the new sites to be open for business in 2021.

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