Freight forwarder welcomes ‘brilliant’ Freeport news

Freight forwarder SSO International secures £125,000 financing to enable it to be the first customs site operator in the £25m Liverpool City Region Freeport. Tony McDonough reports

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


A freight forwarding firm in St Helens has been tasked with laying the first foundation stone in the Liverpool City Region Freeport which could add £850m to Merseyside’s economy.

On Friday it was announced that SSO International Freight Forwarding would be LCR Freeport’s first customs site operator. It will operate a designated customs site from its new 50,000 sq ft warehouse in Haydock.

Last 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.

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.

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.

SSO International Forwarding’s relocation to the Haydock warehouse was supported with a £125,000 loan from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority’s Flexible Growth Fund.

Angus Hirst, head of customs at SSO International, said: “Becoming the first customs site operator for the LCR Freeport is brilliant news for us as a company. And it is even better news for our customers.

“They will be able to take advantage of the many tax and customs benefits this opens up to them.

“The process of applying for this status is rigorous but we’ve received great support from the Combined Authority’s Freeport team. I’d encourage other companies thinking about taking this step to go for it.”

LCR Freeport comprises designated sites across a 45km area. A range of economic incentives will be available within the zone. These cover customs, business rates, planning, regeneration, innovation and trade and investment support.

Local councils will be able to retain 100% of business rates growth generated by the freeport tax sites – located in Birkenhead, St Helens and Widnes.

Centred on a mix of infrastructure including the deep-water container terminal at the Port of Liverpool – which already handles 45% of trade from the US. It is the key coastal access point to the UK’s largest concentration of manufacturing.

Targeting key sectors including automotive, biomanufacturing/pharmaceuticals and maritime, the Freeport will support and attract new advanced manufacturing, logistics and low carbon energy industries.

Louise di Blasi, LCR Freeport customs consultant, said: “It is fantastic news that SSO International has achieved this status. I fully expect them to be the first of many, particularly as more companies see the competitive advantages available to them.”

A number of conspiracy theorists on social media have attempted to paint UK Freeport as ‘Charter Cities’, claiming private companies would have authority over people living within the Freeport areas. This is false. The Freeport remit runs only within the designated sites.

Speaking earlier this year, LCR Freeport director John Lucy said interest in the Freeport from potential investors across the world had been “phenomenal”.


Port of Liverpool
The Port of Liverpool is the UK’s main westward-facing port
Richard Ballantyne
British Ports Assocation CEO Richard Ballantyne. Picture by Tony McDonough


He added: “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.

“We have to be at the front of the race to attract international investors.”

Richard Ballantyne, head of the British Ports Association (BPA), said Freeport’s can “supercharge” UK economic development. He added UK ports were already “drivers of growth” in coastal communities.

“The BPA operates independently from Government and we don’t need too much from them,” said Mr Ballantyne. “We just need the right business and regulatory regime to help us operate effectively.

“We lobbied for the Freeports and we believe they can supercharge our economic development. There are eight Freeports at the moment and we need to roll these out further to other locations.”

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