Stena Line and Anglesey County Council have announced their intention to submit a major freeport bid to help bring an economic boost and reverse the Brexit hit on trade. They will battle it out with potentially another four sites to become the first freeport in Wales after a deal was struck between Welsh and UK governments.
Freeports remove barriers to trade and provide easements that simplify how businesses can operate. It would see the establishment of a secure customs zone at Holyhead and other sites on Anglesey with special tax and tariff arrangements designed to attract major domestic and international investment. According to initial modelling estimates, the freeport would attract £1bn of much-needed investment, including new, high-salary jobs, in the range of 3,500-13,000 across the region.
This would provide a timely boost to the port which has seen its freight trade impacted by Brexit. The exit from the EU has seen trade that previously used the UK as a land bridge diverted on to direct routes between Ireland the mainland Europe. The port has also lost a chunk of the freight trade between the Great Britain and Northern Ireland(NI), which has switched from Holyhead/Dublin to routes direct to NI.
A freeport is expected to simplify travelling through Holyhead and across the UK land bridge. If successful, the bid is predicted to return Holyhead to pre-Brexit levels of trade and cement the area as a hub for innovation in trade and clean energy.
As well as owning Holyhead port, Stena Line has invested in the 213-acre former Anglesey Aluminium site, which, aligned with a number of sites that are in the process of being selected across Anglesey, will lead to wide-ranging benefits to many parts of the region’s economy. The Swedish company is pledging a major foreign investment in Holyhead Port, which is the second largest roll-on/roll-off port in the UK.
The formal bid will be submitted next week to the UK and Welsh Governments. There are already discussions underway with major businesses and institutions who are supporting the bid and are interested in bringing investment to the freeport. The local public are now being asked to unite behind the bid and show their backing for this once in a lifetime opportunity for the region by registering their support at angleseyfreeport.co.uk .
The bid has the backing of 17 major businesses from a range of sectors and industries, including Rolls Royce, Bechtel and Last Energy, along with major educational partners such as Bangor University. The UK and Welsh Governments are expected to make a decision on the freeport submission in Spring 2023.
Ian Hampton, Chief Operating Officer and Executive Director at Stena Line, said: “Stena Line is determined to see a transformation in investment and economic activity for the Anglesey community. We have been part of this community for over 27 years and want to see this bid succeed. We know it can bring in transformational investment, drive innovation and create high-skilled, high-wage, high-value jobs. It can cement the region as a hub of global trading excellence.
“The freeport has many different elements. As well as manufacturing hub it can become a world leader in blue innovation, help the realise the successful vision of the Energy Island Programme and we want to see the establishment of World Customs Academy on the Ynys Môn.”
Cllr. Carwyn Jones, Deputy Leader of the Council, said: “A freeport would be a key pillar in creating long term, sustainable economic development on the Island and across the Region. Too many of our people, particularly our young people, feel they need to leave the Island to get decent jobs and a secure future. We want that to change, and it can.”
Virginia Crosbie, MP for Ynys Môn, said: “As a long-term advocate for the Anglesey freeport, I am confident that it will deliver high-salary, high-skilled jobs to local people in their thousands, as well as act as a magnet to attract long-term, sustainable investment from businesses across the world.”
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Rhun ap Iorwerth, Member of the Senedd for Ynys Môn, said: “This is a bid Ynys Môn can really get behind. It’s been great to work with Anglesey Council and Stena in shaping a bid that reflects our ambitions as a community. We wanted safeguards on workers’ rights and the environment, which we got, along with a much stronger financial package than the original offer. The result has enabled us to put together a bid which is compelling, exciting and sustainable.”
Alastair Evans, Corporate Affairs Director at Rolls-Royce, said: “Anglesey presents a number of unique characteristics which continue to appeal to our long-term business interests; its well-established trade infrastructure alongside a renowned position as a sustainable energy hub are characteristics which make it extremely attractive. Our interest in deploying our Rolls-Royce SMR technology at the Wylfa Newydd nuclear site has been well publicised, and we’re keen that the UK government continues to create conditions which would attract our innovative and deployable solution to North Wales at pace. While Anglesey at present remains attractive to long-term investment, the addition of the proposed freeport could enhance its offer to our business.”