The British Ports Association (BPA) has welcomed the launch of the bidding process, including the publication of the bidding prospectus for Freeports in England, after several years of promoting a port zoning economic vision that supports regional growth and prosperity akin to the Freeports strategy.
This stage represents a key step forward to the establishment of a more advanced model of Freeports, according to Richard Ballantyne, the chief executive of the BPA, who went on to note that "inclusivity and consistency around the United Kingdom is still something policy makers need to consider to avoid any inadvertent consequences of perceived ‘winners and losers’."
Since the UK Government’s announcement of the establishment of 10 Freeports in the Summer of 2019, the BPA, the national association for all types of ports, harbours and terminals, has argued that the Government must prioritise the principles of inclusivity, competition and fairness when forging the policy.
The association has also welcomed recent suggestions that the Treasury would consider the establishment of more than 10 Freeports in the event that they receive a large number of high-quality proposals.
"Today’s announcement does not yet represent the same significant step for ports in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland," BPA said in its announcement and recently wrote to ministers responsible for the implementation of Freeports around the UK, voicing concerns that the devolved administrations have fallen behind and could be disadvantaged compared to English ports.
"Our members in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have concerns that dealignment and delays to the policy in the devolved administrations may be disruptive to ports market, which relies on a level-playing field for free and fair competition," commented Ballantyne.
However, he added, "There are hopes that certain aspects of this can be widened to include all ports. By granting all ports access to certain policy mechanisms to accelerate growth, this could help to counter-balance the risk of displacement and help the government’s ‘build back better’ agenda."