Port businesses Forth Ports and DP World have recently unveiled plans for a new Freeport on the Thames estuary at Thurrock, which would encompass the Port of Tilbury, Thames Gateway and Ford’s engine plant at Dagenham.
Welcomed by Kate Willard, the envoy for the Thames Estuary as ‘transformative’, the project could help to regenerate the region and create up to 20,000 jobs.
What are freeports?
Freeports are a special kind of port where normal tax and customs rules do not apply. Imports can enter with simplified customs documentation and without paying tariffs.
In addition, businesses operating inside designated areas in and around the port can manufacture goods using the imports and add value, before exporting them again without ever facing full tariffs or customs procedures.
They are designed to specifically encourage businesses that import, process and then re-export goods.
The Government has proposed creating up to 10 freeports in the UK and has launched a Freeports Advisory Panel to help facilitate this, as part of wider plans to help boost post-Brexit growth.
What could a freeport mean for the region?
According to the bid, ‘a Thames freeport will be a magnet for new investment, jobs, skills development and the adoption of greener technology.’
It the bid is successful, the freeport will link sites along the estuary to the largest markets in Europe, alleviating road congestion, and reducing pollution along the A13 corridor.
It is also hoped that the freeport will play a part in driving the Thames’ net zero transformation, including the promotion of investments in clean energy generation.
The consortium says that there are nearly 1,000 acres of land ready for development if the project is approved, and £400m in port infrastructure spending waiting to happen.
It is anticipated that with more immediate jobs and longer-term prospects, there is an opportunity to help regenerate the local community by providing new skills as well as attracting new talent to the area.
We will be watching the bid’s progress with interest.