Date: 11.08.2020

Bid for a freeport on the Thames

Forth Ports and DP World will submit a joint freeport bid incorporating the Port of Tilbury and DP World London Gateway, to create a digitally connected multi-site free trade zone, that will focus on clean growth, while seeking to act as an innovation hub across a range of sectors.

The companies hope to leverage Tilbury’s experience of holding freeport status until 2012 as well as DP World’s knowhow in setting up and operating the free trade zone at Jebel Ali in Dubai.

The partners believe that 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.

The Thurrock freeport bid will support the area’s employment-focussed growth strategy, with the area currently lagging behind the surrounding region in wages, skills and employment.

Unemployment rates in the area are above the national average at 4.6%: up to 36,000 direct and indirect jobs could be created at London Gateway alone, once the site is fully built out.

DP World will look to implement a secure and safe set of customs and operating processes to ensure port users can take advantage of the full range of customs and financial incentives to offer in order to attract new investment to the UK.

The joint bid brings together complementary strengths which will create a strong, export-focused case for a freeport designation. 

The Port of Tilbury, which is the largest multi-purpose port serving the South East of the UK, held freeport status until 2012, giving it experience in streamlining customs processes and developing new terminals. This includes the UK’s largest unaccompanied freight ferry terminal at Tilbury2, which Forth Ports opened in May 2020.

Details of the bid will be developed over the coming months with the policy statement by the 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.

Metro will monitor and manage the developments with DP World and Forth Ports. We are very large users of both ports, with general container traffic transiting London Gateway and timber/ plywood related products being handled at Tilbury Port. 

We continually evaluate the performance and capabilities of all gateways in and out of the UK, ensuring that we deliver reliable services through the ports. 

In addition we are always looking at cost effective and value added platforms and operations throughout all global port partnerships and the Thames Freeport concept ticks all the boxes.