City region Freeport reveals US trade mission

Going live this summer the new Liverpool City Region Freeport is reporting ‘phenomenal’ interest from global investors and is to lead a trade mission to the US. Tony McDonough reports

John Lucy
LCR Freeport director John Lucy addresses the Maritime Exchange conference. Picture by Tony McDonough

 

A Merseyside trade mission to the US later this year will seek to capitalise on the “phenomenal” interest from global investors in the new Liverpool City Region Freeport.

Backed by £25m of initial funding from the Government, the LCR Freeport will go live this summer. It will cover multiple locations across the Liverpool city region and stretch out as far as Port Salford at the far end of the Manchester Ship Canal.

Addressing the Maritime Exchange conference at Liverpool Town Hall, LCR Freeport director John Lucy said interest in the Freeport from potential investors across the world had been “phenomenal”.

He said: “We already have 600 hectares of space and, with the inquiries we are seeing, we could double that. There are massively strong opportunities to bring investment into the Liverpool city region.”

In an attempt to capitalise on that LCR Freeport is partnering with industry body Mersey Maritime on a trade mission to Washington DC later this year. 

“We have to be at the front of the race to attract international investors,” he added. “On this mission we will be looking to bring North American investors into Liverpool. We are bringing the world to the Liverpool city region.”

In March 2021, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that Liverpool city region would be one of eight new English Freeport zones. The others are Thames, Solent, East Midlands, Freeport East (Felixstowe and Harwich), Plymouth and South Devon and Humber and Teeside.

A flagship policy in the Conservative’s 2019 election manifesto, 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 previously 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.

They include the Port of Liverpool, which will be the primary customs site, and three tax and customs sites – Wirral Waters, the £100m Parkside Colliery logistics scheme, and the 3MG multi-modal terminal at Widnes.

Other Freeport locations include Liverpool John Lennon Airport, Borchard Lines container terminal, Port Garston, Port Weston, Port Salford and Stobart rail terminal as well as a number of other sites.

It will focus on investment in manufacturing and logistics, advanced manufacturing, innovation and research and development activities. It has the potential to condense 20 years of growth into 10 years with the creation of 10,600 new jobs. A Freepprt could also add £1.3bn in annual Liverpool city region GVA every year.

 

Capitol Building, Washington DC
LCR Freeport will lead a trade mission to Washington DC
Parkside Colliery
Thomas O’Brien, chair of LCR Freeport, visits Parkside Colliery. Picture by Bernard Platt

 

There was strong interest, John added, in existing business sectors such as automotive, shipbuilding and life sciences. But he also said there are new and emerging business sectors overseas that are interested in investing in the city region.

Thomas O’Brien, chair of LCR Freeport, joined St Helens Council leader David Baines and local MO Conor McGinn to see progress on the Parkside scheme. 

Developer Langtree showed them works progressing on phase one of the site and the Parkside Link Road. This will open up further development opportunities at the former colliery in Newton-le-Willows.

Freeport status for Parkside builds on the borough’s advanced manufacturing capability, logistics and emerging location for research and innovation. Mr O’Brien said: “The Liverpool City Region Freeport is a key part of the national programme to improve the UK’s competitiveness.

“Our Freeport has truly global ambitions, and Parkside at St Helens is a world-class asset to attract growing firms from far and wide. It’s exciting to see first-hand that work is already under way.”

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