Freeport East vision taking shape

Earlier this year, Freeport East was unveiled as one of eight new Freeports in England, with plans to become a hub of global trade and national regeneration and innovation.

While talks are still underway on the formal designation process, Freeport East will be one of the Uk’s first new freeports for years.

The initiative, which looks set to create 13,500 jobs in the region, focuses on the Port of Felixstowe and Harwich International Port.

Its primary aims are to build a global trade hub in the region, create innovative partnerships with the green energy cluster on its doorstep, and help level up the economy. As the largest route to market for the Midlands and North, it will also have a wider economic impact throughout the UK.

The government wants freeports to play a key part in the UK’s post-Covid economic recovery. They are treated as secure customs zones where business can be done within a country’s land border, but with different tax and customs rules. Benefits include generous tax incentives (such as full business rates relief) and simplified customs procedures.

Freeport East has already made clear that the clean energy sector will be one of the central pillars of its future success, and that it is well positioned to lead on decarbonisation of the country’s energy needs. 

Its planned Hydrogen Hub, for instance, aims to be one of the world’s most innovative nuclear, hydrogen, maritime and transport decarbonisation schemes. As a pillar of the Freeport East bid, it could create significant numbers of new jobs within the next 12 months, and act as a showcase for the UK’s Net Zero capabilities in the build-up to COP26.

Clemence Cheng, executive director Hutchinson Ports, which owns the ports of Felixstowe and Harwich, explained: “Freeport East’s position on the main global shipping routes, and with frequent services over to Europe, makes it the ideal place to attract inward investment. It has 50% of the UK’s offshore wind capacity on its doorstep and, working with our partners we will help drive developments in green energy for use in the transport sector as well as across the wider economy.”

Freeport East is already contributing to wider innovation in the technology sector as well. Hutchison Ports is working with Cambridge University and Three UK to develop innovative 5G applications. It is also working with the New Anglia LEP, Tech East and BT’s research centre at Adastral Park on new telecommunications infrastructure. 

The Freeport East initiative is a partnership between Hutchison Ports, Harwich Haven Authority, New Anglia LEP, South East LEP, Essex County Council, Suffolk County Council, East Suffolk Council, Tendring District Council, Babergh and Mid Suffolk Councils and the Haven Gateway Partnership.

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