Launch of Thames Freeport signals huge opportunity for Essex economy

THE official launch of Thames Freeport last week marked what is expected to be a huge boost in Essex’s economy.

In March, the Government gave the go ahead to DP World’s London Gateway port to create a freeport with the Port of Tilbury and Ford’s Dagenham plant.

The launch was announced alongside the news work is set to begin on a £300million fourth berth at London Gateway in addition to the £2billion already invested by Dubai-based DP World.

The freeport is expected to create 21,000 new jobs in Thurrock and the surrounding area, one of the most deprived areas in the country.

Many of the jobs will come with the development of 1,700 acres of land around the port.

Having freeport status brings tax benefits to businesses operating there, effectively creating a tax free haven.

Businesses are said to be lining up to base their operations there in order to take advantage of the tax breaks.

Interest is coming from companies involved in industrial processes, manufacturing and logistics, electrification, innovation incubators and support services.

All of the businesses will be able to take advantage of the development-ready, low tax and pro-trade port.

The freeport links up with Ford’s Dagenham engine plant, where emphasis is being placed on training and apprenticeships.

Ernst Schulze, UK Chief Executive of DP World, said: “Since freeport shortlist status was announced earlier this year, retail and manufacturing businesses looking to expand or establish new operations have moved to take advantage of the unique opportunities on offer.

“We are proud to partner with Thurrock Council – which is consistently ranked in the top five per cent of Local Planning Authorities for speed in dealing with applications – and with the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, where Ford Dagenham is located.

“Both authorities share our vision for turbo-charging a high-tech industrial base along the Thames Estuary, with new employment opportunities and investment in skills and life-long learning.”

Charles Hammond, chief executive of the Forth Ports Group, said the freeport will bring wide ranging benefits to the area said: “The freeport’s Skills Accelerator programme will ensures that the many new highly skilled employment opportunities are spread far and wide throughout London and the South East.

He added: “With access to an excellent distribution network, an established skills base and port land ready for development at the heart of the largest consumer market in Europe, all supported by well-equipped local authorities, commercial interest in our sites continues to grow.”

Thames Freeport bosses are also looking to make the most of the Thames by creating a barge service. This would initially be for freight but the port is also looking at improving passenger systems on the Thames which could become an alternative route for London commuters.

Freeports are designed to create sustained economic growth in deprived areas.

The freeports will make it easier for business because they will be linked digitally with customs and tax sites making international logistics much quicker and easier to manage by cutting much of the red tape.

At a freeport, imports can enter with simplified customs documentation and without paying tariffs.

Businesses operating inside designated areas in and around the port can manufacture goods before exporting again without ever facing full tariffs.

If the goods move out of the freeport into another part of the country, however, they have to go through the full import process, including paying any tariffs.

Freeports are similar to enterprise zones and attract Government support

The Government wants to create “innovation hubs” which boost global trade, attract inward investment and increase prosperity in the surrounding area by generating employment opportunities.

Thames Freeport was awarded freeport status by the Government earlier this year, with the partners currently progressing the business case with a view to receiving formal accreditation.

Denise Rossiter, chief executive of Essex Chambers of Commerce, said the port expansion was “a real vote of confidence in the future of south Essex which was demonstrated by the presence of the Chancellor and Transport Secretary at the launch event.

“We look forward to working with Thames Freeport as it develops in the future.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter