Thames Freeport, backed by DP World, becomes UK’s first economic trading zone to open


Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak on Wednesday opened Britain’s first free port after Brexit – the UAE-backed Thames Freeport – as the country seeks to bolster its trade ambitions after exiting the European Union.

Thames Freeport, which combines DP World’s London Gateway and Forth Ports Port of Tilbury in a freeport area with Ford’s Dagenham auto engine plant, is one of eight new free ports that allow companies to do business with the UK under streamlined customs, tax and planning rules.

The opening came as DP World announced it would invest £ 300million ($ 414.8million) in the construction of a fourth berth at its port of London Gateway to create more capacity.

“Our new free ports will create national hubs of commerce, innovation and commerce, and attract more investment to regenerate communities and level the UK,” Sunak said at the freeport’s commercial launch at the Savoy Hotel in London.

“Bringing together ports and businesses to invest in their regions is essential to the success of Freeports – which is why I am delighted that DP World is investing £ 300million to support Thames Freeport – by creating new opportunities, driving the growth and supporting local jobs. “

DP World will begin work next month on the fourth berth at its London Gateway logistics center to increase supply chain resilience and create more capacity for the world’s largest vessels.

The global port operator has said the £ 300million builds on the £ 2 billion that DP World has invested in Britain over the past decade.

Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, group chairman and managing director of DP World, said he was “delighted” to move forward with the company’s “latest major investment in the UK, which will give London Gateway more than capacity to handle the world’s largest ships than any other port in the country ”.

“As a central pillar of Thames Freeport, London Gateway’s new fourth berth will allow even more customers to benefit from world-class ports and logistics, with unparalleled global connectivity, at the gateway to the world’s largest European consumer market, ”Bin Sulayem said.

“DP World intends to be at the heart of Britain’s business future and this investment shows that we have the ambition and the resources to drive growth, support businesses, create jobs and improve living standards. “

In the first six months of 2021, London Gateway achieved a record throughput of 888,000 TEUs (20ft Equivalent Unit), an increase of more than 23% from the previous best performance for the first half of the year, said DP World.

The fourth berth will increase capacity by a third, with completion coinciding with the delivery of a new wave of 24,000 TEU vessels in 2023 and 2024, operated between Asia and Europe.

Thames Freeport said it was “open to doing business with new customers”, with “land ready for development now in Europe’s largest consumer market and a growing industrial cluster”.

Alan Shaoul, chief financial officer of DP World in the UK, said the Thames Freeport offered “exceptional financial incentives, potentially the equivalent of up to 50% of the cost of real estate over five years”.

“These include the absence of stamp duty on land purchases, savings on employers’ national insurance contributions, a five-year holiday on professional rates and generous capital allowances on investment. Flexibility within the free port customs area will also help manage non-tariff barriers, supporting business ventures with the EU and the rest of the world, ”said Mr. Shaoul.

The eight new UK economic zones were unveiled by Mr Sunak in his March budget, with East Midlands Airport, Felixstowe and Harwich, Humber, the Liverpool City area, Plymouth, Solent, Thames and Teesside all obtaining status of free port.

DP World Southampton has also been granted free port status under Solent Freeport, further highlighting the critical role that Dubai-backed logistics centers play in the UK’s international trade.

Free ports are championed by the UK government as a way to help the country rebuild better after the pandemic by boosting jobs and attracting trade and investment.

The launch of Thames Freeport ties in with London International Shipping Week, during which Britain, host of this year’s Cop26 environment summit, has already called for global net zero emissions from shipping. by 2050.

As international regulations require the global shipping industry to reduce emissions by 50% from 2008 levels, the UK Chamber of Shipping wants the International Maritime Organization to double this target and commit to net zero emissions by the middle of the century.

Thames Freeport said the economic zone will “support innovative low-carbon technologies” as it seeks to support the London Port Authority’s “ambitious net zero 2040 goal” through capital investment, development of skills and the promotion of investments in the production of clean energy such as hydrogen.

“Through the Port of London Authority, the Tidal Thames connects all Freeport sites to consumer markets in London and the South East, creating the infrastructure for an innovative and green trade corridor. We are determined to play a leading role in the journey to net zero, ”said Robin Mortimer, Managing Director of the Port of London Authority.

Updated: September 15, 2021, 13:01

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