British Ports Association comments on new report on Northern ‘Free Ports’ strategy proposal
The British Ports Association has welcomed the renewed focus on role that ports play in regional and national UK economies in a new report on 'Supercharged Free Ports' published today.
SUPERCHARGED FREE PORTS (pdf)
The report highlights the opportunities of 'super charging' free ports to include enterprise stimulus. This is similar to the Association's 'port zoning' proposals, which could include enterprise, planning and consenting advantages for UK ports of all type and location. The British Ports Association’s Chief Executive, Richard Ballantyne said:
“We welcome the discussion about ports which shows how central they are to regional and national economies. Establishing a Free Port alone could be quite a challenging exercise but combining other stimulus in areas such as enterprise and planning would enable ports to grow and develop. Should these zones be taken forward, we would expect them to be voluntary and implemented in a similar way across the country in a way that does not distort competition. Ports are economic areas that have been built up over many years, supporting jobs and businesses. They are often at the heart of their communities supporting trade, offshore industries, fishing, leisure and tourism as well as providing vital transport links."
A ‘Free Port’ allows certain exemptions from customs duties and tariffs which enables added value processes to take place. They can be created under current UK law but depending on the type of Brexit deal the UK Government negotiates they could be more relevant to the UK.
The Government's Taxation (Cross Border Trade) Bill reinforces this policy although many of the advantages can also be achieved through other procedures, such as customs warehousing and inward processing.
Free ports do not offer a solution to potential customs and border requirements challenges presented by Brexit for gateway ports, where freight simply moves through a port. They could however provide benefits to ports where added value and industrial processes are undertaken. Dependent on the final Brexit agreement there could be competition issues to consider on customs and excise procedures, therefore free ports continues to attract much debate.