Dover unveils Freeport vision

The Port of Dover has unveiled plans for a ‘virtual’ Freeport Zone that it says will help make Global Britain a reality while leading the fight against climate change.   The plans, which will form part of the port’s response to the government’s freeports consultation, see Dover working with a growing number of businesses, universities and public bodies to establish the UK’s first Global Trade and Innovation (GTI) Zone. The collaboration will see the creation of “secure and sustainable supply chain corridors designed to maximise the jobs and regeneration potential of the government’s emerging Freeports policy,” according to Dover authorities.

The port said the GTI Zone would strengthen the UK’s post-Covid economic recovery; deliver economic growth, development and regeneration; aim to create the UK’s first Zero Emission Logistics Corridors; and enhance post-Brexit trade security and resilience. The GTI Zone will connect the Port of Dover with key manufacturing hubs alongside regeneration sites identified by local authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships. Initial estimates by economic consultancy Oxera suggest that by enabling just one of the regeneration sites already identified to reach its potential, the GTI Zone could support almost 10,000 jobs.

Plans for the first phase of the GTI Zone will see this number increase significantly as more sites are added, creating more employment in areas around the UK where regeneration is most needed.  Manufacturers will be able to access the customs, tariff and taxation benefits offered by Freeports without having to re-locate, boosting their global competitiveness and aiding post-Covid recovery, according to Dover, while also helping reduce the impact of no trade deal with the EU or any tariffs introduced after the end of the transition period.   Plans for the GTI Zone will see private and public sector players come together to support international efforts to attract investment to a number of regeneration sites, which will also offer customs, tariff and taxation benefits, complemented by a wider range of other incentives.

New opportunities for business Dover said the ability to deliver regeneration will be further strengthened by offering companies and start-ups the chance to work alongside established international businesses, build close relationships with potential customers and access a range of services dedicated to driving export growth. These services will include financial support and training delivered by the GTI Zone’s ‘Exporting Works’ Programme, which will also help educate young people about international trade in local schools and colleges.

By connecting existing manufacturing hubs and regeneration sites digitally as well as physically, the plans state that the GTI Zone creates the possibility of developing ‘super-clusters’ with more businesses working together to further advance the UK’s global competitiveness in key economic sectors. The Port of Dover has brought together leading academic institutions aiming to create the UK’s first Zero Emission Logistics Corridors. Routes between the port and key manufacturing hubs will be used to develop and trial new electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles, alongside other advanced technologies and infrastructure.

The University of Cambridge and Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University, part of the Centre for Sustainable Road Freight, will join forces with the Warwick Manufacturing Group and Kent University to focus on a range of projects designed to support achieving the government’s goal of ‘net-zero’ carbon emissions and a net-zero emission transport system by 2050.  Partners will also work together to deliver new systems and technology designed to enable frictionless trade, optimising the efficiency and resilience of global supply chains. Dover pointed out that the GTI Zone provides a scalable Freeport model designed to allow businesses and other public bodies to easily ‘plug in’ over time, making sure that all parts of the economy and areas most in need of regeneration have the potential to benefit. 

‘Powerful, but pragmatic’ plans Port of Dover chief executive Doug Bannister said: “As a vital part of supply chains serving key sectors throughout the entire UK economy, we have used the Port of Dover’s special position to develop a uniquely powerful proposition. “The GTI Zone maximises collaboration between the public and private sectors and cuts across traditional geographical boundaries to maximise the jobs and investment boost that Freeports can deliver.

We believe the GTI Zone can be a catalyst for stronger economic recovery in the near term, as well as a catalyst for transformational economic growth over the longer term. “The GTI Zone is specially designed to address both the challenges and opportunities set out in the consultation paper, and deliver an effective response to the new challenges presented by the Covid crisis. “Importantly, our plans are firmly pragmatic.

We are looking at building on proven processes and technology to make sure we can deliver real benefits as quickly as possible.

Inspired by the government’s ambitions for Global Britain, we have also been learning from current Free Zone operators elsewhere in the world, including the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. 

“By strengthening the UK’s post-Covid economic recovery, creating the UK’s first Zero Emission Logistics Corridors, and delivering post-Transition Period trade security and resilience, the GTI Zone is a platform to deliver national success.”

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