Thousands of news jobs could be created at a new free port in south Essex which would see the Port of Tilbury and London Gateway join forces for a post-Covid economic boom.
The duo intend to submit a joint bid to create the port, which could make south Essex the "port capital of the UK".
A free port or “free zone” is an area inside a country’s geographic boundary but which is legally considered outside the country for customs purposes.
As a result, goods brought into the freeport don’t face import tariffs and are very attractive to businesses which predominantly rely on imported goods.
However, there are currently none in the UK after a law which permitted them expired in 2012.
Bosses say up to 36,000 direct and indirect jobs could be created at London Gateway alone, once the site is fully built out.
The Port of Tilbury is the largest multi-purpose port serving the South East and is the UK’s fastest-growing port.
Charles Hammond, Chief Executive of Forth Ports, the owner of Port of Tilbury, said: "I am looking forward to working with the team at London Gateway on this submission for freeport status.
"Thurrock is at the heart of the port industry in the South East and the development hub of the Thames estuary.
"This joint bid brings together our complementary strengths which will create a strong, export-focused case for a freeport designation.
"Our appointment of Vivid Economics clearly demonstrates our commitment to creating a compelling submission later this year.
"Like London Gateway, at Tilbury we have a robust network of international connections, streamlined customs systems and developable land close to key markets.
"In May this year, we opened the UK’s largest unaccompanied freight ferry terminal at Tilbury2, further strengthening our location to support existing and new business opportunities."
Ernst Schulze, DP World UK CEO, added: “We believe 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.
"Working with Forth Ports will enable us to create the most sustainable, strategically located, trade enabling centre of excellence in the UK, whilst allowing us to support the development of local industry and create high skilled employment for the local area”
James Patterson-Waterston, Head of Cities and Infrastructure at Vivid Economics, said “We are excited to apply our knowledge from working in trade and investment across the world to further develop a dynamic and globally competitive freeport in the inner Thames Estuary.
"Given the substantial trade passing through Thurrock ports currently, this area is clearly a strong candidate for the new wave of ambitious and strategic freeports in the UK. We look forward to working with Forth Ports and DP World to develop a compelling case for freeport designation.”
Source: Southend Standard