News

2021 March 3 17:24

Chancellor put ports at heart of regional growth and prosperity

Eight freeports will be established in England as the Chancellor acknowledges the sector’s role in anchoring high-quality jobs and prosperity in regional economies, it was announced in today’s Budget.

The first tranche of freeports include successful bids from East Midlands Airport, Felixstowe/Harwich, Liverpool, Humber, Plymouth, Solent, Thames and Teesside. However more designations could be needed elsewhere to prevent regions losing out.

Commenting on the developments, Richard Ballantyne, Chief Executive of the British Ports Association – the trade body representing UK ports and terminals which has promoted a policy of port zoning akin to the Freeports concept – said:

“We welcome this as a first tranche of freeports in England but there will be regions that are disappointed not to have been recognised. These are an interesting selection of bids and we look forward to a continuing a partnership with Ministers who rightly recognise the critical role that ports can play in anchoring prosperity and supporting important industries in our coastal communities.

"It is important that the Government now considers how it can extend many of these benefits elsewhere if it is serious about its implementing its levelling up agenda.

“We hope that Government will keep an open mind on further bids in England and perhaps reconsider proposals for those ports not successful today, which still play a foundational role in supporting a number of growing sectors from logistics to offshore wind to tourism. Some elements of the freeports programme could easily be spread much further, helping to create more productive and high quality jobs without incurring significant costs to the exchequer or requiring complex oversight or administration. This would also help ease fears from sections of the industry about the Government’s intervention and perception of ‘picking winners’.

The BPA will be publishing further reaction to the Budget shortly. Check our media centre for up to date reaction.

The British Ports Association represents the interests of over 100 port members, covering more than 400 ports, terminal operators and port facilities. The UK ports industry plays a key role in the country’s economy as 95% of the UK’s international trade – imports and exports – is carried through British ports. UK ports also handle more than 60 million international and domestic passenger journeys each year. The UK port industry is the second largest in Europe, handling around 500 million tonnes of freight each year. UK ports directly employ around 115,000 people.