by Lewis Smith
PLANS to explore the case for a green freeport in south-west Wales have been launched by a consortium this month, focusing on ports in the areas of Milford Haven and Port Talbot.
It has been described as a bid that could provide the area with a “nationally significant energy infrastructure”, which would support the development of floating offshore wind, as well as hydrogen and sustainable fuels in the Celtic Sea.
The consortium that consists of councils in Neath Port Talbot and Pembrokeshire, as well as the Port of Milford Haven and Associated British Ports, will explore the potential bid which could see a range of exciting opportunities.
A spokesperson on behalf of the consortium said:
“Combining this potential with the region’s skill base, existing facilities and proximity to key markets offers a compelling argument for a potential freeport bid.
“A south-west Wales freeport could bring together the ports of Port Talbot and Milford Haven to unlock the widest possible opportunity for Wales and for the UK by accelerating investment and fast-tracking modern skills development for new green industries. It would also strengthen export opportunities while supporting the Welsh and UK Governments’ ambitions to drive economic growth.”
The Welsh and UK Governments have jointly designed the freeport model to deliver three objectives, which would have to be met by any applicants looking to be a part of the development.
These would be to promote regeneration and high-quality job creation, to establish the freeport as a national hub for global trade and investment across the economy, and to foster an innovative environment.
The consortium will now look to work with established industry representatives, academics and other key stakeholders to map out the full scale of the opportunities and create a case for a south-west Wales joint freeport bid.
Speaking in the ministerial foreword for the Freeport Programme in Wales bidding prospectus, Vaughan Gething, Minister for Economy said:
“The Welsh Government has a clear Economic Mission to establish the Welsh economy as more prosperous, equal and green than ever before.
“Turning that ambition into a reality hinges on how we ensure investment reinforces our commitments to fair work, sustainability and supporting the services and industries of the future.
“As an intrinsic part of our rich industrial history and the engine room of our economy, ports have huge potential to accelerate future industries which support net-zero from off-shore energy to advanced manufacturing.
“Thanks to the agreement we’ve secured with the UK Government, we are launching a Freeport Programme in Wales which offers an opportunity to harness Wales’s abundant economic potential domestically and internationally by reimagining the role of ports, whilst promoting fair work and sustainability.
“We are inviting progressive applications which deliver regeneration and high-quality jobs, boost investment and trade and foster innovation.
“The successful bid will receive up to £26m seed investment as well as a package of benefits which span tax and rates relief, streamlined planning, customs site designation and wider government support for trade, investment and innovation.
“Both governments will jointly decide the outcome of the competition and I look forward to considering innovative bids which deliver meaningful economic and social benefits for Wales.”
Bids must now be submitted by November 24, 2022. The successful bid will be will be announced in early spring 2023, with the freeport being established by summer that year.