TWO of the UK’s largest port businesses – Forth Ports Group and DP World – today announce a partnership which will submit a joint freeport bid incorporating the Port of Tilbury and DP World London Gateway. As part of the commitment to this joint bid, the partnership announces the appointment of Vivid Economics who will provide expert advice and economic analysis during the process.
The partnership brings together the complementary strengths of the two major ports on the Thames. Together the two port businesses make Thurrock one of the UK’s strongest port and distribution clusters.
Both operations in Tilbury and at London Gateway have the scale, global connectivity and the ability to expand and develop land at scale as the market demands. The digitally connected multi-site free trade zone will focus on clean growth while seeking to act as an innovation hub across a range of sectors.
The Thurrock freeport bid will strongly support the area’s employment-focused growth strategy, positioning Thurrock as the port capital of the UK. The Thurrock economy was worth £4 billion in 2018 and has experienced robust population growth over the past decade. While the area lags behind the surrounding region in wages, skills and employment, the opportunities unlocked by a joint freeport will create significant employment opportunities while delivering on the national levelling-up agenda.
Current unemployment rates in the area are above the national average at 4.6%: up to 36,000 direct and indirect jobs could be created at London Gateway alone, once the site is fully built out. Thurrock’s local economy is already benefitting from port-focused development at Tilbury and London Gateway, with projects at both supporting Thurrock council’s employment objective.
The Port of Tilbury is the largest multi-purpose port serving the South East and is the UK’s fastest-growing port. It is a national export hub surrounded by high-value industrial clusters that would be boosted by freeport status. Utilising the port’s experience of operating a freeport in the recent past (Tilbury held freeport status until 2012), streamlining customs processes and developing new terminals, the port is committed to bid for a designation in Thurrock. The port has invested £1 billion during 2012-20, which has seen it double the size of its business in the past 10 years and is projected to double the volume of cargo across the quay (from 16 million to 32 million tonnes) and increase direct employment (from 3,500 to 12,000 jobs).