BPA sets out freeports priorities

Port of Tilbury The Thames Freeport bid consortium is one of the stakeholders in the UK government's freeports initiative. Photo: Forth Ports
Industry Database

Three priorities for the establishment of freeports have been outlined by the British Ports Association (BPA) as the application window for ports in England to apply for freeport status closes on 5 February.

The BPA is calling on governments to ensure that the selection process is fair and transparent; they continue to work with industry to ensure a sound regulatory environment is established, for all ports to flourish; and there is a level playing field across all UK nations.

Phoebe Warneford-Thomson, policy manager and economic analyst, at the BPA, said: “We hope that the Government will assess each bid on its merit and not place an arbitrary cap on our ambitions. We would be surprised if there are not more than 10 high quality and compelling bids so we hope government will assess each on their merits and retain an open mind on numbers.”

The BPA is aware of approximately 35 organisations or consortia that have expressed an interest in bidding, publicly or privately, including 27 in England. This includes the Thames Freeport bid consortium.

Fair and transparent

The BPA remains concerned that the benefits of freeports will be offered to a small and arbitrary number of ‘winners’, picked by government. This could disrupt a well-functioning and competitive market.

Sound regulatory environment

The BPA said the Government have stated that they will allocate more than 10 Freeports if they receive a high number of high-quality bids, but it stressed they must ensure that benefits are given to ports in an inclusive way to unlock growth at all ports. The BPA is particularly keen to examine the possibility of expanding planning levers that form part of the Freeports package out to allports and said it would be happy to work with Government to consider how this might be deployed.

Level playing field

The BPA was pleased to see Scotland’s acceptance of the UK Government’s Freeports offer, but industry is still waiting on key details to ensure these designations are equally beneficial. It strongly encourages the Welsh Government and Northern Irish Executive follow suit to avoid displacement to English and Scottish ports.

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