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Tue, 7 July 2020

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It’s time to free our ports to unleash an economic resurgence in every part of the UK

It’s time to free our ports to unleash an economic resurgence in every part of the UK

The UK Government is currently consulting about creating new Freeports in the UK | Credit: Port of Dover

Port of Dover

3 min read Commercial

Covid-19. Big crisis. Big impact. That’s why a big response is needed. We now have an opportunity to harness what makes our island nation great and set free our ports to lead an ambitious plan for economic recovery.

The UK Government is currently consulting about creating new Freeports in the UK. Traditionally, a Freeport is a secure customs zone located at ports where no duty is paid on goods that are re-exported.

The Government’s consultation invites ideas on how the UK can build on this traditional approach to encourage high-tech manufacturing, innovation and regeneration.

The Port of Dover shares this ambition and believes that elevating the traditional Freeports model will yield greater economic advantage, and carry a new leading skills and innovation platform into the future for the UK.

The first step is to embrace a Freeports model that allows a single Freeport to include multiple sites, which can be located anywhere in the UK. This approach offers numerous important advantages. 

Firstly, it provides an additional mechanism to support manufacturers following the Covid-19 crisis, immediately embedding Freeports as a key part of the nation’s economic recovery.

Secondly, it ensures that no part of the UK misses out, allowing qualifying enterprises and public sector partners to gain the benefits of Freeport status by easily plugging into an established Freeport structure.

Thirdly, it allows the UK to build on the strength of its existing economic clusters to turbocharge innovation, regeneration and growth.

Combining a multi-site approach to Freeports and the skills agenda is key to delivering the transformative benefits that the Government’s Freeports policy can bring.

Overcoming traditional geographic barriers to foster partnerships between firms operating in different regions provides a meaningful platform for developing and trialing new technologies, including those designed to facilitate sustainable transport and deliver decarbonisation.

It is also more likely to attract new investment and realise new business opportunities in locations targeted for regeneration by being part of the wider collaboration enabled by a multi-site Freeport.

A Freeport comprising multiple locations can further help the UK overcome significant challenges to secure sustainable and resilient growth over the long-term.

Whist the Covid-19 crisis has intensified many of those challenges, it has also spurred new ways of working with many embracing the power of digital connectivity.

This shows how a Freeport comprising multiple locations can create a network that goes far beyond facilitating the secure transfer of components or raw materials; it can be a network that exchanges knowledge, ideas and skills.

Using technology to unleash a collaboration between businesses and educational institutions focused on a growth agenda is hugely powerful.

By harnessing digital as well as geographic co-location, a multi-site Freeport can create the foundation for new super-clusters that maximise the UK’s ability to compete internationally and seize the opportunities offered by an increasingly specialized global economy.

That’s why combining a multi-site approach to Freeports and the skills agenda is key to delivering the transformative benefits that the Government’s Freeports policy can bring.

As a port operator at the heart of critical supply chains of businesses and manufacturers throughout the nation handling over £120 billion of trade every year, the Port of Dover is committed to making sure the UK can achieve that goal.

It’s time to free our ports to unleash an economic resurgence in every part of the UK.

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