A new economic recovery plan highlights how investment in ports can play a part in the UK’s fight to get back on its feet in the wake of the first Covid-19 peak.
Freeports come to the fore in the document published by the British Ports Association for the UK government.
It outlines a framework for recovery from 2020 and beyond, focusing on three key areas to kickstart economic activity.
‘UK Ports: Coronavirus Economic Recovery Plan’ proposes continued cash flow and business support; in the medium term it suggests a massive scaling up of the UK’s infrastructure ambitions – including a Green Maritime Fund for sustainable development – and in the long term it envisions a bold and broad-based inclusive freeports and fast track planning policy.
Richard Ballantyne, chief executive at the BPA, said: “These packages offer a path to prosperity in the long-term while promoting sustainable growth and helping ports to realise their potential in what is likely to be the most challenging economic climate for a generation. Ports have the ambition to lead the country to a new future.
“A key message is that we want to energise our ports by igniting their potential to fire up the economy. Let’s make it happen.”
Disruption to manufacturing and the cliff-edge drop in non-food retail has caused huge harm to supply chains.
The BPA also highlights how a deferral of business rates backed by central government would also free up capital to help cash flow, and notes that support of skills development for business retention is important.
The Humber is understood to have fared better than most, with a focus on energy.
Dafydd Williams, group head of marketing and communications, said: “ABP is very supportive of plans to help achieve economic growth following the impacts of Covid 19. “In the Humber we have kept going throughout the crisis as we handle supplies that are vital to keeping the nation going, but we are keen to seize future opportunities as the economy adapts.
“Freeports are one such potential opportunity and we are working with partners in the surrounding local authorities and local enterprise partnerships to respond positively to the Government’s consultation and expect in due course to be submitting a bid for Freeport status.”
Measures outlined within the plan for infrastructure investment include a UK Infrastructure Bank and a Green Maritime Fund to drive sustainable development and help stimulate growth consistent with Net Zero aims.
Green hydrogen is now on the agenda in the Humber, with Immingham looking pivotal once again, with fossil fuel import of recent days gone by potentially offset with offshore wind generated exports.
The BPA will also shortly be publishing a paper that explores how to overcome the barriers to ship-to-shore power.
Noting that the UK government is in the process of developing a UK-wide strategy on freeports, the BPA said it has identified several imperative conditions of the UK Freeport model to unlock the untapped potential of the UK’s coastal communities by drawing investment into manufacturing and logistics
It has urged the government not to limit its ambition to the previously suggested 10 site proposals, stressing there is a real danger of leaving some regions behind by limiting the scope. The BPA has also asked that government reclassifies ‘port zones’ with improved planning, fiscal and regulatory status.
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