14 Jul 2020

Port Of Dover’s Ambition to Make Freeports a National Success

The Port of Dover has today revealed it is developing ambitious and innovative plans for a ‘virtual’ Freeport Zone that aims to help make Global Britain a reality whilst leading the fight against climate change. The plans will form part of the Port’s response to the Government’s Freeports Consultation, which is due to close on 13 July.

The Port is working with a rapidly growing number of leading businesses, universities and public bodies to establish the UK’s first Global Trade and Innovation Zone. The unique collaboration will see the creation of secure and sustainable supply chain corridors designed to maximise the jobs and regeneration potential of the Government’s emerging Freeports policy.

Amongst other major benefits, the GTI Zone will:

  • strengthen the UK’s post-COVID economic recovery;
  • deliver economic growth, development and regeneration
  • aim to create the UK’s first Zero Emission Logistics Corridors; and
  • enhance post-Brexit trade security and resilience.

The GTI Zone will connect the Port of Dover with key manufacturing hubs alongside regeneration sites identified by local authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships.

Initial estimates by leading economic consultancy Oxera suggest that by enabling just one of the regeneration sites already identified to reach its potential, the GTI Zone could support almost 10,000 jobs. Plans for the first phase of the GTI Zone will see this number increase significantly as more sites are added, creating more employment in areas around the UK where regeneration is most needed.

Manufacturers will be able to access the customs, tariff and taxation benefits offered by Freeports without having to re-locate, boosting their global competitiveness and aiding post-COVID recovery, whilst also helping reduce the impact of no trade deal with the EU or any tariffs introduced after the end of the transition period. This will be facilitated by firms that supply raw materials and components to manufacturers in key sectors such as automotive, life sciences and aerospace, and that are already compliant with strict Government criteria for the secure storage and transfer of goods.

Plans for the GTI Zone will see major private and public sector players come together to support international efforts to attract investment to a number of regeneration sites, which will also offer customs, tariff and taxation benefits, complemented by a wider range of other incentives.

The ability to deliver regeneration will be further strengthened by offering companies and start-ups the chance to work alongside established international businesses, build close relationships with potential customers and access a range of services dedicated to driving export growth. These services will include financial support and training delivered by the GTI Zone’s ‘Exporting Works’ Programme, which will also help educate young people about international trade in local schools and colleges.

By connecting existing manufacturing hubs and regeneration sites digitally as well as physically, the GTI Zone creates the possibility of developing ‘super-clusters’ with more businesses working together to further advance the UK’s global competitiveness in key economic sectors.

With innovation a key pillar of the GTI Zone plans, the Port of Dover has brought together leading academic institutions aiming to create the UK’s first Zero Emission Logistics Corridors. Routes between the Port of Dover and key manufacturing hubs will be used to develop and trial new electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles, alongside other advanced technologies and infrastructure. The University of Cambridge and Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University, part of the Centre for Sustainable Road Freight, will join forces with the Warwick Manufacturing Group and Kent University to focus on a range of projects designed to support achieving the Government’s goal of ‘net zero’ carbon emissions and a net-zero emission transport system by 2050.

Partners will also work together to deliver new systems and technology designed to enable frictionless trade, optimising the efficiency and resilience of global supply chains.

The GTI Zone provides a scalable Freeport model designed to allow businesses and other public bodies to easily ‘plug in’ over time, making sure that all parts of the economy and areas most in need of regeneration have the potential to benefit.

Port of Dover Chief Executive, Doug Bannister said: “As a vital part of supply chains serving key sectors throughout the entire UK economy, we have used the Port of Dover’s special position to develop a uniquely powerful proposition.

“The GTI Zone maximises collaboration between the public and private sectors and cuts across traditional geographical boundaries to maximise the jobs and investment boost that Freeports can deliver.

“We believe the GTI Zone can be a catalyst for stronger economic recovery in the near term, as well as a catalyst for transformational economic growth over the longer term.

“The GTI Zone is specially designed to address both the challenges and opportunities set out in the consultation paper, and deliver an effective response to the new challenges presented by the COVID crisis.

“Importantly, our plans are firmly pragmatic. We are looking at building on proven processes and technology to make sure we can deliver real benefits as quickly as possible. Inspired by the Government’s ambitions for Global Britain, we have also been learning from current Free Zone operators elsewhere in the world, including the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

“By strengthening the UK’s post-COVID economic recovery, creating the UK’s first Zero Emission Logistics Corridors, and delivering post-Transition Period trade security and resilience, the GTI Zone is a platform to deliver national success.”

Supporting quotes from a selection of key organisations working with Port of Dover:

Dover District Council

Cllr Trevor Bartlett, Leader of Dover District Council, said: “Dover District Council wholeheartedly supports the Port of Dover’s proposals for Freeport designation and the creation of a Global Trade and Innovation Zone in East Kent.

“The Port of Dover is, and will always be the most efficient trade route for just-in-time goods from the continent and the starting point for a logistics corridor which keeps the nation supplied.

“The need for investment in Dover is compelling to boost trade and manufacturing, and to support the regions.

”The proposal is backed by local authorities across East Kent who recognise the opportunity Freeport status would bring to the wider area for economic development and job creation.”

Kent County Council

Mike Whiting, Cabinet Member for Economic Development at Kent County Council said: “Kent County Council fully supports the Government’s ambition to create Freeports in the UK. I believe Kent, as the UK’s Gateway to Europe, is perfectly placed to provide the infrastructure, innovation and manufacturing base to transform not just the Kent economy but the wider economic health of the whole country.”

South East Local Enterprise Partnership

Chair Christian Brodie said: “We are delighted that the Port of Dover and partners have developed such exciting plans in response to the Freeports consultation, this is an opportunity to deliver jobs and growth for the future and will drive the competitiveness of this nationally significant gateway for the UK. We have seen the benefits of agglomeration in other parts of the County such as the Enterprise Zones and really welcome the importance placed on connecting with the wider business community, Universities and support for developing local skills. This new Freeport status will allow Dover to compete on a global scale in this new emerging, challenging economy.”


Paul Andrews, Sales Director of AMCO said: “We welcome discussions with the Port of Dover over ‘Virtual Free trade Zones’. In the current uncertain economic climate, we more than ever want to engage with exciting initiatives like this, which can provide an important boost to the automotive and other sectors, facilitate trade growth, and bring new employment and economic benefits, both to local business and across the whole of the UK.”

Aston Martin

James Stephens, Director of Government & External Affairs at Aston Martin said: “As a leading UK manufacturer and exporter, Aston Martin is delighted to support the Port of Dover’s innovative and ambitious approach to Freeports. The GTI Zone can deliver an important boost to the automotive industry and other key sectors across the economy, helping drive the UK’s post-COVID economic recovery and strengthening growth over the longer term.”

Pfizer UK

Julian Thompson, Vice President, Worldwide Safety and Regulatory International and Global Product Information, and Sandwich Site Leader, said: “Pfizer UK welcomes the Government’s efforts to enhance manufacturing capabilities and boost British exports through the creation of Freeports across the country. Our work with the Port of Dover to deliver Freeport designation provides an exciting opportunity for our R&D facility – based at Discovery Park in Sandwich, Kent – that will assist us in researching and developing medical breakthroughs that change patients’ lives. We look forward to receiving further details from the Government in due course.”

Centre for Sustainable Road Freight

Professor David Cebon, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Road Freight said: “The combination of rich, real-time data about logistics movements and low carbon vehicle technology gives a unique opportunity for the GTI Zone to lead the way in dramatically reducing the environmental impact of logistics. We are delighted to be part of this initiative that will put the UK at the forefront of decarbonisation initiatives, while also enabling innovative business opportunities for industry.”

Customs Clearance Consortium (founded by Oakland-Invicta)

Robert Hardy, Commercial Director of the Customs Clearance Consortium, said: “The Customs Clearance Consortium is delighted to be part of this exciting, innovative and forwarding-thinking proposal. Britain’s global trade aspirations are centred on developing world leading customs and fiscal solutions that maintain border integrity whilst offering maximum flexibility and targeted incentives to drive business growth. The GTI scheme put forward by the Port of Dover not only capitalises on Dover’s unique trade and customs experience but also eases the flow of goods to and from the EU by effectively moving the border up-country through a network of satellite Freeport zones with linked corridors leading to and from the Port.”

“The best way to avoid a bottle-neck is to include the entire bottle. By enabling Brexit trucks to complete customs formalities at strategically placed Dover satellite zones, one can avoid the prospect of trucks arriving in Kent in a less than prepared state and significantly reduce the likelihood of exit border friction.”


Huw Thomas, Development Director, Magway, said: “As a revolutionary delivery system for goods, Magway is delighted to be supporting the Port of Dover in pursuing a next-generation seamless trade agenda with sustainability and resilience built in. The Port’s exciting vision perfectly combines the Government’s Freeports ambition with the innovation we can offer for UK trade utilising Dover’s core strength in supplying the nation with critical goods.”

Discovery Park

Mayer Schreiber, CEO of Discovery Park said, “Freeport status would significantly catalyse growth of Discovery Park, particularly driving domestic and inward investment in manufacturing capacity and the development of our Manufacturing Village vision. Complementary to our position as a Life Sciences Opportunity Zone, being part of a Port of Dover Freeport would position Discovery Park as an entry point to the UK life sciences sector with beneficial effect on the local economy.”

University of Kent

Carole Barron, Director of Knowledge Exchange & Innovation at University of Kent said: “The prospect of 10 new Freeports in the UK signals a strong commitment by the Government to support the country’s international trade and the South East’s ports are uniquely placed to be part of helping to sustain the region’s trade position. The most successful Freeports around the world attract businesses and create jobs for local people through liberalised planning laws.

“The University of Kent welcomes the region’s interest in Freeports and are keen to look at ways we can work together for the mutual benefit of the University and the port in order to maximise the opportunities and areas for collaboration presented by the Freeport status.”

Oxera Consulting LLP

Andrew Meaney, Partner and head of transport at Oxera Consulting LLP said: “We have been working with the Port of Dover to help them understand the economics of the Short Straits market for almost a decade and are delighted to be involved in helping the Port to understand the economic impact of its Freeport proposal. The GTI Zone concept is a particularly innovative solution that has the potential to support significant economic activity.”


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