Forth Ports Group and DP World have announced a partnership which will submit a joint freeport bid incorporating the Port of Tilbury and DP World London Gateway.
As part of the commitment to this joint bid, the partnership has announced the appointment of Vivid Economics who will provide expert advice and economic analysis during the process.
"Our appointment of Vivid Economics clearly demonstrates our commitment to creating a compelling submission later this year," stated Charles Hammond, chief executive of Forth Ports, the owner of the Port of Tilbury.
Details of the bid will be developed with Vivid over the coming months with the policy statement by the United Kingdom (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.
James Patterson-Waterston, head of cities and infrastructure at Vivid Economics, said that "given the substantial trade passing through Thurrock ports currently, this area is clearly a strong candidate for the new wave of ambitious and strategic freeports in the UK."
Both operations in Tilbury and at London Gateway have the scale, global connectivity and the ability to expand and develop land at scale as the market demands, said the joint announcement, while 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 Thurrock freeport bid will strongly support the area’s employment-focussed growth strategy, positioning Thurrock as the port capital of the UK. The Thurrock economy was worth £4 billion (US$5.2 billion) in 2018 and has experienced robust population growth over the past decade. While the area lags behind the surrounding region in wages, skills and employment, the opportunities unlocked by a joint freeport will create significant employment opportunities while delivering on the national levelling-up agenda.
Thurrock’s local economy is already benefitting from port-focused development at Tilbury and London Gateway, with projects at both supporting Thurrock council’s employment objective, according to the announcement.
"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," Ernst Schulze, DP World UK CEO, commented.
The Port of Tilbury is the largest multi-purpose port serving the South East and is the UK’s fastest-growing port. The port has invested £1 billion (US$1.3 billion) during 2012-20, which has seen it double the size of its business in the past 10 years and is projected to double the volume of cargo across the quay (from 16 million to 32 million tonnes) and increase direct employment (from 3,500 to 12,000 jobs).
DP World London Gateway is the UK’s newest container port, with the DP World Group having invested over £1.5 billion (US$2 billion) to develop a state-of-the-art deep-sea container port and Logistics Park.