Forth Ports and DP World have formed a partnership that will submit a joint freeport bid incorporating the Port of Tilbury and DP World London Gateway, the largest facilities within the Port of London cluster.
The pair, which are situated in Thurrock, Essex, to the east of London, have appointed Vivid Economics to provide advice and economic analysis during the process.
According to the partners, both operations at Tilbury and London Gateway have the scale, global connectivity and the ability to expand and develop land at scale as the market demands.
The digitally connected multi-site free trade zone will focus on clean growth while seeking to act as an innovation hub across a range of sectors.
The companies hope to utilise Tilbury’s experience of holding freeport status until 2012 as well as DP World’s knowhow in setting up and operating the free trade zone at Jebel Ali in Dubai.
Ernst Schulze DP World UK CEO commented that “We believe a freeport on the Thames will ensure that the UK continues to be an attractive destination for inward investment, and that bringing London Gateway within a freeport will help lower the total cost of trade to the benefit of UK industry and retailers and ensure resilience in the overall supply chain.
“Working with Forth Ports will enable us to create the most sustainable, strategically located, trade enabling centre of excellence in the UK, whilst allowing us to support the development of local industry and create high skilled employment for the local area.”
The Thurrock freeport bid will support the area’s employment-focussed growth strategy, with the area currently lagging behind the surrounding region in wages, skills and employment.
Unemployment rates in the area are above the national average at 4.6%: up to 36,000 direct and indirect jobs could be created at London Gateway alone, once the site is fully built out.
DP World will look to implement a secure and safe set of customs and operating processes to ensure port users can take advantage of the full range of customs and financial incentives to offer in order to attract new investment to the UK.
Charles Hammond, chief executive of Forth Ports (owner of Port of Tilbury), said: “Thurrock is at the heart of the port industry in the South East and the development hub of the Thames estuary.
“This joint bid brings together our complementary strengths which will create a strong, export-focused case for a freeport designation. Like London Gateway, at Tilbury we have a robust network of international connections, streamlined customs systems and developable land close to key markets.”
The Port of Tilbury, which is the largest multi-purpose port serving the South East of the UK, held freeport status until 2012, giving it experience in streamlining customs processes and developing new terminals. This includes the UK’s largest unaccompanied freight ferry terminal at Tilbury2, which Forth Ports opened in May 2020.
Details of the bid will be developed with Vivid over the coming months with the policy statement by the UK Government expected to be published in the autumn. The timescale for submission of a bid is expected to be towards the end of 2020/early 2021.