The port of Blyth and its partners in Energy Central have welcomed the UK’s decision to progress with the establishment of free ports.

As HLPFI reported here, the UK is moving ahead with plans to establish up to ten free ports, with the aim of announcing the location of the new zones at the end of this year so that they can open for business in 2021.

Blyth is one of the many ports in the UK hoping to gain free port status to tap into the potential of these zones. The port said that businesses working on the estuary could benefit from this designation, as would the recently developed Energy Central partnership.

Designed to create an environment for investment from the offshore and renewable energy sector, Energy Central is a partnership between port of Blyth, Northumberland County Council, the council’s development arm Advance Northumberland and Offshore Energy Renewable Catapult.

Martin Lawlor, chief executive of the port of Blyth, said: “The port welcomes the recent launch of the free ports consultation from the Treasury and the Department for International Trade and is committed to working closely with all stakeholders in this process.

“Given the strength of the Energy Central partnership in Blyth and the potential of several nationally significant offshore energy related developments taking place around the estuary, the port believes it is well placed to make the most of such an opportunity.”

Richard Wearmouth, chairman of Advance Northumberland, added that the estuary benefits from significant areas of land available for development and “would be a strong contender for free port status”.

The consultation process is expected to run until April and covers a wide range of free port related matters including devolution, Customs, tax, planning, regeneration, innovation, additional policies and governance.