Freeports: ABP hails potential for trade and UK-wide growth

ABP's Port of Newport

One of the UK's largest port businesses, which has major operations in Wales, has hailed the UK Government's plans to establish Freeports around the country and said the proposals presented a chance to create jobs and build on the billions its ports contribute to the economy. Associated British Ports (ABP) has 21 ports around Britain handling about GBP150bn of trade on behalf of businesses around the country. Together with its customers, ABP's ports already support 119,000 jobs and contribute GBP7.5bn to the UK economy every year.

The business said an ambitious Freeports policy had the potential to generate further economic activity by attracting investment and growing international trade that benefits the whole economy. As part of a wider strategy, the Freeports also offer the chance to achieve important national objectives, including boosting exports; reducing carbon emissions; and levelling up the economy, ABP added. A spokesperson for ABP told Insider: "By eliminating tariffs and duties, reducing operating costs and streamlining planning, Freeports could become ideal locations for investment in new manufacturing, logistics and innovation.

"This could lead to the creation of thousands of quality long-term, high-skilled jobs in coastal communities, which have been left behind recent economic development." Highlighting how several ABP ports are "well placed to deliver on the stated objectives of the Freeports policy", the spokesperson added: "ABP's ports are located on key global and European trade routes and in close proximity to important domestic industrial clusters, logistics hubs and major conurbations. "ABP owns a total of 3,743 hectares of freehold land, one of the largest portfolios in the UK, which includes 960 hectares of strategic development land in prime locations across the country."

The business also highlighted how its Welsh ports were excellent locations for port-centric manufacturing, with large areas of strategic development land close to deep water, connected by road and rail to major conurbations and distribution centres. "Many of our ports have a long history of supporting manufacturing and many were built and expanded to support these growing industries. "In South Wales, the ports of Newport and Port Talbot play a central role in supporting the steel sector through production and the export of finished product These ports have the facilities, scale of operations and available land needed to support the establishment and growth of future industries."

Freeports: ABP hails potential for trade and UK-wide growth

Freeports could also serve to accelerate the growth of renewable energy clusters and innovation hubs, helping to deliver shared objectives on environmental protection and decarbonisation.

"This is most likely where strong and embedded industrial clusters are already established," ABP said. "Our ports are at the heart of the South Wales Industrial Cluster and have a central role to play in the development of floating offshore wind in the Celtic Sea, as well as emerging green technologies, including hydrogen, alternative fuels and Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage." ABP's ports on the Humber, in South Wales and in Southampton, have the infrastructure in place for a Freeport, ABP said, while the business also pointed to its track record of investment. "Beyond the ports, infrastructure investment to improve port connectivity will be an important factor in enabling the continued growth of Freeports and the businesses that locate within them.

"Support for the upgrade of roads, widening of junctions and gauge clearance to facilitate rail freight can ease the flow of goods to and from the ports and deliver significant environmental and efficiency benefits." Insider is campaigning to back the various bids and provide an in-depth guide to the different locations, outlining what their credentials are and what the long-terms benefits to the economy will be. We are also canvassing the views of the wider business community with a survey which allows our readers to have their say on the bids and how a Freeport would benefit their firm.

Click here to complete the survey.

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