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Two new freeports announced for Wales

Both freeports aim to attract £4.9bn in public and private investments, with the potential to create around 20,000 jobs by 2030.

(Adobe Stock)

The Celtic Freeport in Milford Haven and Port Talbot and Anglesey Freeport on Ynys Mon have been chosen as Wales’ first freeports, helping to create tens of thousands of new jobs in the green industries of the future, the Welsh and UK Governments announced today.

In May 2022, the Welsh Government reached an agreement with the UK Government to establish a freeport programme in Wales.

Following a bidding process, the Welsh and UK Governments have jointly agreed to create two freeports in Wales, which are expected to be operational later this year.

The winning bids are:

  • The Celtic Freeport in Milford Haven and Port Talbot. The freeport will be based around the port of Port Talbot in Neath Port Talbot, and the port of Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire. The plans focus on low carbon technologies, such as floating offshore wind (FLOW), hydrogen, carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS) and biofuels to support the accelerated reduction of carbon emissions. The freeport aims to attract significant inward investment, including £3.5bn in the hydrogen industry as well as the creation of 16,000 jobs, generating £900m in Gross Value Added (GVA) by 2030, and £13bn by 2050.
  • The Anglesey Freeport, Ynys Mon. The freeport will be based around the port of Holyhead, Anglesey Prosperity Zone, Rhosgoch and M-Sparc. The freeport will develop the Energy Island Programme (EIP) by focusing on marine energy technology testing on the seabed (tidal and wind). The freeport aims to create between 3,500 and 13,000 jobs by 2030, with an increased GVA of approximately £500m. It also anticipates significant inward investment, including the possibility of £1.4bn in the green energy sector.

The freeports will form special zones with the benefits of simplified customs procedures, relief on customs duties, tax benefits, and development flexibility. Welsh freeports will promote fair work opportunities and prioritise environmental sustainability and the climate emergency.

They are designed to promote regeneration and high-quality job creation, become a national hub for global trade and investment across the economy, and foster an innovative environment. The successful bids are focused on boosting the distinct strengths the sites boast, exploiting opportunities from offshore wind and marine energy to advanced manufacturing and innovation.

The two freeports aim to collectively create around 20,000 jobs by 2030 and attract up to £4.9bn in public and private investments.

Announcing the winning bids, First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford said:

“I am pleased to confirm the Celtic Freeport in Milford Haven and Port Talbot and Anglesey Freeport have been selected as Wales’ new freeports.

“The Welsh Government has a clear economic mission to transform the Welsh economy, creating a stronger, fairer and greener future. The designation of these sites as Wales’ first freeports will reinforce that mission, building on the significant investments and partnerships we have made in these regions over many years.

“The joint working between governments on the freeport programme should serve as a blueprint for future intergovernmental work on a whole range of issues.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said:

“Wales is a thriving part of the UK, and today’s new Freeports will see businesses and opportunities for people in and around Anglesey, Port Talbot and Milford Haven go from strength to strength.

“Everyone deserves equality of opportunity and working closely with the Welsh Government has helped to deliver these fantastic new sites.

“Today’s Freeports show the hard work being done day in, day out to bring new, high-skilled jobs to communities across Wales and deliver on my promise to grow the economy.”

Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething, said:

“I would like to congratulate the Celtic and Anglesey teams for their exceptional bids to be awarded freeport status. Due to the compelling set of proposals presented to us, I have agreed with the UK Government that a second freeport in Wales can be supported.

“Our ports are an intrinsic part of our rich industrial history. They will be an engine room of our future economy and these bids are designed to accelerate that journey. From off-shore energy to advanced manufacturing, they will help create tens of thousands of new jobs – which will support our highly ambitious plans to reach net zero by 2050.

“This will help harness our abundant economic potential domestically and internationally, whilst promoting fair work and sustainability here in Wales.

“I look forward to seeing our freeports delivering meaningful economic and social benefits for Wales.”

Minister for North Wales, Lesley Griffiths said:

“This is great news for Anglesey and I know it will be welcomed in the region.  The port of Holyhead is a real asset for the whole of North Wales and the freeport will be a significant boost for the people and economy of Anglesey and the wider North West Wales region.”

 Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said:

“Wales has huge untapped potential, and that’s why we have worked in partnership with the Welsh Government to agree not one but two Freeports for Wales.

“This is the result of both governments working together to deliver for Wales, providing yet another example of Wales benefiting from its place in a strong United Kingdom.

“I am absolutely confident these new Freeports will be transformational for Wales, helping to grow the economy, level up and spread opportunity.”

Responding to the announcement by UK and Welsh Governments of two new Freeports for Wales, Ben Francis, FSB Wales Policy Chair stated:

“Today’s announcement is excellent news not only for the successful Freeport bids but the communities and businesses in which they’re located. These are two distinct and different developments which offer significant opportunities for growing trade, developing innovation and driving technologies which will contribute to Wales’ net zero mission.

“To ensure that we realise the full benefit of these developments, it’s important that from the outset, the partnerships developed to deliver the Freeports look at innovative and unique ways of growing local SME supply chains to help develop the capability and skills of local business and the economy. We will look to work constructively as part of that community of partners in both Anglesey and West Wales.

“We recognise and applaud not only the work of the Freeport bids but crucially, the collaboration of UK and Welsh Governments on this development. It is a good demonstration of shared purpose and commitment and the constructive joint-working of ministers and civil servants on this announcement is very welcome.

It’s important now that we move fast to grow the local partnerships and develop the support to make these new Freeports for Wales a success which deliver growth and prosperity for communities and the wider Welsh economy.”

The Welsh freeport programme has been designed to help deliver the Welsh Government’s policies on fair work. This includes workers being fairly rewarded, heard and represented, and can progress in a secure, healthy, and inclusive working environment, where their rights are respected.

The programme also includes a number of other made-in-Wales policies such as:

  • The Welsh Government’s Economic Contract
  • Trade union involvement in freeport governance structures
  • An emphasis on the real living wage and lifting the wage floor
  • Setting expectations about employers’ treatment of employer national insurance contributions

The UK Government will provide up to £26m of non-repayable starter funding for each of the freeports being established in Wales – this represents parity with the deals offered to each of the English and Scottish freeports.

Welsh Ministers agreed to support freeport policies in Wales following the UK Government’s agreement it would meet the Welsh Government’s demands that both governments would act as a ‘partnership of equals’ to establish freeports in Wales.

As part of a fair and open competitive process to determine where the policy should be implemented in Wales, the Welsh Government and UK Government jointly published a prospectus, which set out the policy objectives both governments seek to achieve through the establishment of the freeport programme.

The bidding process opened on 1 September 2022 and closed on 24 November 2022. Three bids were received by the deadline.

The successful bids will be taken forward to the next stage of the process – the development of an outline business case.