Why ports are vital in driving regional growth

The UK’s supply chains for food, energy and medicine depend on reliable transport infrastructure.

The global coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the critical importance of the ports and maritime sector to the UK economy. Throughout the period of disruption caused by the pandemic, key workers in ports across the country worked tirelessly to safeguard essential supply chains for food, medical supplies and critical fuels. As we look to rebuild and level up the economy in the months ahead, our ports can serve as important engines for sustainable growth in coastal communities around the country.

The UK’s ports are already central to our economy, handling some 95 per cent of the nation’s trade in goods. Associated British Ports (ABP) is the UK’s leading ports owner and operator, with 21 ports around the UK handling a quarter of the nation’s seaborne trade. ABP’s ports serve as vital trading gateways that connect businesses, manufacturers and industry across the UK to global markets. In fulfilling this role our ports support 119,000 jobs and contribute £7.5bn to the UK economy every year.

Our ports sit at the heart of coastal communities with proud maritime traditions. In addition to facilitating the free flow of trade, ports are also hubs for economic activity and drivers of local and regional growth. Despite this important economic function, however, many port towns are still marked by the decline in heavy industries and manufacturing and many have become the focus of the government’s levelling up agenda.

An ambitious freeports policy has the potential to enhance ports’ capacity to generate economic activity that benefits the whole economy. Freeports can serve to grow UK trade and exports but they can also deliver other important goals by supporting decarbonisation and regional economic development. By reducing tariffs and duties, streamlining customs, reducing operating costs and simplifying the planning process, freeports have the potential to become magnets for inward investment in new manufacturing, without compromising high levels of labour and environmental protection. This could result in the creation of thousands of quality long-term, high-skilled jobs in communities and regions where traditional industries have faced challenges or decline . . . .

. . . . continue reading the article on the New Statesman website