Maritime minister puts rail and freeports high on the agenda during Mersey visit

Nusrat Ghani leaders of Liverpool city region’s £4bn maritime sector and said the Government was committed to better transport links and the implementation of freeports. Tony McDonough reports

Nusrat Ghani
Nusrat Ghani, Maritime minister on a visit to Mersey Maritime. Picture by Tony McDonough


UK Maritime minister Nusrat Ghani said the new Government was ready to “turbo boost” rail infrastructure in the North as she met with maritime industry leaders in Merseyside.

Ms Ghani, a minister in the Department for Transport, also said the introduction of freeports across the UK was high on the Government’s agenda and she was asking Liverpool city region, and other maritime clusters, for their proposals.

On Wednesday morning she visited Mersey Maritime, the representative body for Merseyside’s £4bn powerhouse maritime sector, to speak with local business people. She also had a one-to-one meeting with Mersey Maritime chief executive Chris Shirling-Rooke.

The minister said the maritime sector had a reputation for being “incredibly polite” and urged industry leaders and entrepreneurs to make themselves heard more clearly. She added: “If the maritime industry didn’t do what it did this country would grind to a halt.”

She will continue to play a major role in the implementation of the Government’s Maritime 2050 strategy, which is looking to spark a new era of growth in the maritime sector, worth around £50bn a year to the UK, and also ensure it is at the forefront of the fight against climate change.

Mersey Maritime
Maritime minister Nusrat Ghani with Mersey Maritime CEO Chris Shirling-Rooke. Picture by Tony McDonough


Mersey Maritime, along with Maritime UK, is playing a key role in the planning and implementation of Maritime 2050 and is already working closely with Government.

She acknowledged the huge investment Peel Ports had made in the Port of Liverpool with its £750m Liverpool2 container terminal and the need for better transport links to maximise the port’s potential.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps are due to review whether rail projects such as HS2 and HS3, connecting the east and west of Northern England, will be backed by the Government.

Ms Ghani said: “Peel have done really good work at the Port of Liverpool… we want to match those aspirations. We need to focus on freight capacity and how quickly we can get freight criss-crossing the country.”

She also said the Government was keen to push on with its strategy of reintroducing freeports to the UK with plans for a minimum of 10 around the country. A freeport is free trade zone, typically around a ports, in which goods can be traded and manufactured without customs duties or taxes.

The minister said it was also possible to have a freeport zone actually away from a port. She explained: “We are keen to consult with ports around the UK and we are asking them to put forward their submissions. A freeport does not have to be at a port. It can be located at a space between ports.”

Ms Ghani also said it was vital to encourage UK ports to invest in new technology and added she was fully behind the drive to increase the number of women working in the maritime sector. Mersey Maritime has been at the forefront of the national Women in Maritime campaign, hosting a public speaking workshop at its offices last November.

Nusrat Ghani
Maritime minister Nusrat Ghani spoke to Mersey Maritime members during her visit. Picture by Tony McDonough


Chris Shirling-Rooke added: “We were delighted to facilitate the visit of the Maritime Minister to Merseyside today who we know to be one of the most passionate and strongest advocates for our industry at the heart of Government.

“From an informal discussion with a number of our key partners and member businesses, to viewing the site of the essential Wirral Waters project and finally to a tour of the Port of Liverpool, all that is good about the sector in the Liverpool city region was on clear display.

“Mersey Maritime is driven by a simple mission: to increase jobs, growth and prosperity across the maritime sector. Many opportunities are on the horizon, not least owing to our strategic position as a gateway for Atlantic trade. I want our region to be at the forefront of future trade and innovative projects to bring about a further expansion of the sector locally. It was fantastic to make the case for that to the minister in person.”

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