Last week thousands of people gathered throughout the week in the nation’s capital for London International Shipping Week. The series of events, which take place every two years, bring together businesses and public sector leaders with an interest in UK trade to discuss the future. This year, the first event of its kind after Covid, felt especially relevant as the focus was all about how to grow and re-build the UK economy to seize the many opportunities that exist ahead.
There were some interesting themes that ran throughout the week of particular relevance to regions in the North of England thinking about future growth.
Around 95% of the nation’s trade enters or leaves the UK via the sea. Considering that almost a quarter of Britain’s maritime trade moves through the four ports on the Humber, it is easy to see the pivotal role the Humber plays in keeping Britain trading. Increasingly, though, the ports are being seen not just as part of trade routes, but as enablers of growth. Port operators represent some of the biggest investors in UK infrastructure in recent years, constantly increasing and upgrading to allow for growth and changes in trading trends. Added to that, many ports, especially on the Humber, have available land space to accommodate new manufacturers, distributors and research and development centres which all could benefit from the close access to international supplies and markets that ports can provide.
For this reason, the Freeport policy has become enormously important to the Government. Creating tax incentives for would-be investors in future industries to locate on vacant land inside a Freeport area could create exactly the business-friendly environment that will make the UK competitive on the World stage.