Liverpool City Region Freeport set to go live

Liverpool City Region Freeport set for final go-ahead from the Government as SSO International is revealed as the first customs site operator. Tony McDonough reports

SSO International
SSO International Freight Forwarding is the first LCR Freeport customs site operator


Liverpool City Region Freeport is set to go live as it announces SSO International Freight Forwarding will be its first customs site operator.

Earlier this week the Government announced Plymouth, Solent and Teesside are the first of eight English Freeports to secure full approval. Each region will receive £25m to kick-start the process.

Announced as a flagship policy by then Chancellor and now Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, in March 2021, Freeports are designated zones where normal tax and customs rules do not apply.

These can be airports or other hubs as well as maritime ports. At a Freeport, imports can enter with simplified customs documentation and without paying tariffs.

Liverpool had a Freeport until 2012 but this new incarnation will be much more ambitious. Rather than just focused on the port itself it will encompass multiple locations across the city region and beyond.

LCR Freeport’s primary customs sites are the Port of Liverpool in Seaforth and at Liverpool John Lennon Airport. It stretches to Port Salford at the other end of the Manchester ship canal.

There will also be three tax zones – Wirral Waters, the £100m Parkside scheme in St Helens and the 3MG multi-modal terminal at Widnes. It will also encompass other industrial and logistics sites.

LCR Freeport is now awaiting the final sign-off for its business case from Government which it expects will happen shortly, releasing the initial £25m funding.

READ MORE: Freeport can ‘supercharge’ economic development

READ MORE: Logistics demand soars ahead of Freeport launch

SSO International Freight Forwarding are experienced freight forwarding specialists based in St Helens, offering a range of import and export services.

They will now operate a designated customs site comprising its new 50,000 sq ft secure warehouse in Haydock. It offers easy access to the M62 and M6, as well as Liverpool and Manchester airports, and the Port of Liverpool.

Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram said: “Throughout the process, I’ve been clear that I will only use our Freeport as a force for good, to help build an economy that works for everyone in our region.

“I want to attract investment into our region who believe in and support our local ambitions – those who will help us to protect workers’ rights and uphold standards, and who want to work with us to deliver regeneration and funding in the areas that need it most.


Map of the LCR Freeport locations
Steve Rotheram
Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram


“The establishment of the Liverpool City Region Freeport has the potential to help our drive to attract international investment, create more well-paid, highly skilled jobs for local people and build on our existing strengths.

“It is estimated that the freeport will add £850m to the local economy and contribute towards our plans to boost research and development and target green technologies to help us reach net zero by 2040 at the latest.

“But, for us, it means much more than that. I want to ensure that there is a purpose behind this status that not only drives our economy, but fuels greater social mobility, innovation, and inclusion for our whole region – including the integration of our Fair Employment Charter.”

Critics of Freeports claim that rather than attracting new business, the zones simply displace investment from other areas. There has also been a disinformation campaign on social media to falsely claim Freeports will act as ‘charter cities’ – semi-autonomous regions. This is not the case.

Earlier this year LCR Freeport director John Lucy said interest from potential investors around the world had been “phenomenal”. He added: “We already have 600 hectares of space and, with the inquiries we are seeing, we could double that.”

Louise di Blasi, LCR Freeport customs consultant, said on Friday: “Having been in the development stage for so long we are tantalisingly close to having our Freeport up and running.

“It will deliver tremendous benefits to the city region’s economy, creating thousands of high-quality jobs and boosting growth and prosperity.”

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