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Boost for Wales as Freeports set to create thousands of jobs and attract billions in investment

THE CELTIC FREEPORT in Milford Haven and Port Talbot and Anglesey Freeport on Ynys Mon have been chosen as Wales’ first freeports, helping to create tens of thousands of new jobs in the green industries of the future, the Welsh and UK Governments announced today.

In May 2022, the Welsh Government reached an agreement with the UK Government to establish a freeport programme in Wales.

Following a bidding process, the Welsh and UK Governments have jointly agreed to create two freeports in Wales, which are expected to be operational later this year.

The winning bids are:

  • The Celtic Freeport in Milford Haven and Port Talbot. The freeport will be based around the port of Port Talbot in Neath Port Talbot, and the port of Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire. The plans focus on low carbon technologies, such as floating offshore wind (FLOW), hydrogen, carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS) and biofuels to support the accelerated reduction of carbon emissions. The freeport aims to attract significant inward investment, including £3.5bn in the hydrogen industry as well as the creation of 16,000 jobs, generating £900m in Gross Value Added (GVA) by 2030, and £13bn by 2050.
  • The Anglesey Freeport, Ynys Mon. The freeport will be based around the port of Holyhead, Anglesey Prosperity Zone, Rhosgoch and M-Sparc. The freeport will develop the Energy Island Programme (EIP) by focusing on marine energy technology testing on the seabed (tidal and wind). The freeport aims to create between 3,500 and 13,000 jobs by 2030, with an increased GVA of approximately £500m. It also anticipates significant inward investment, including the possibility of £1.4bn in the green energy sector.

The freeports will form special zones with the benefits of simplified customs procedures, relief on customs duties, tax benefits, and development flexibility. Welsh freeports will promote fair work opportunities and prioritise environmental sustainability and the climate emergency.

They are designed to promote regeneration and high-quality job creation, become a national hub for global trade and investment across the economy, and foster an innovative environment. The successful bids are focused on boosting the distinct strengths the sites boast, exploiting opportunities from offshore wind and marine energy to advanced manufacturing and innovation.

The two freeports aim to collectively create around 20,000 jobs by 2030 and attract up to £4.9bn in public and private investments.

Announcing the winning bids, First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford said: “I am pleased to confirm the Celtic Freeport in Milford Haven and Port Talbot and Anglesey Freeport have been selected as Wales’ new freeports.

“The Welsh Government has a clear economic mission to transform the Welsh economy, creating a stronger, fairer and greener future. The designation of these sites as Wales’ first freeports will reinforce that mission, building on the significant investments and partnerships we have made in these regions over many years.

“The joint working between governments on the freeport programme should serve as a blueprint for future intergovernmental work on a whole range of issues.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “Wales is a thriving part of the UK, and today’s new Freeports will see businesses and opportunities for people in and around Anglesey, Port Talbot and Milford Haven go from strength to strength.

“Everyone deserves equality of opportunity and working closely with the Welsh Government has helped to deliver these fantastic new sites.

“Today’s Freeports show the hard work being done day in, day out to bring new, high-skilled jobs to communities across Wales nd deliver on my promise to grow the economy.”

Commenting on the selection of Celtic Freeport, Roger Maggs MBE, Chair of the Celtic Freeport bid consortium, said: “We hope that Wales’ two freeports will deliver for the country. The future is exciting. The Celtic Freeport has catalysed major business interest, local communities, trade unions and academia in using Wales’ largest industrial base as the launchpad for developing new technologies and the renewable energy manufacturing opportunities of tomorrow. This has the potential to unlock £5.5 billion of private and public investment for Wales and create new training and innovation facilities, factories and expanded green energy ports, as well as new alternative fuel production complexes. 
 
“Our green investment and innovation corridor will support the creation of 16,000 green jobs, which will not just be good news for Milford Haven, Pembroke Dock and Neath Port Talbot, but also Bridgend, Carmarthen, Swansea, The Valleys and many other communities across Wales.” 

Port Talbot

The Celtic Freeport consortium comprises Associated British Ports (ABP), Neath Port Talbot Council, Pembrokeshire County Council and the Port of Milford Haven.  The bid’s strategically located tax and customs sites span almost 250 hectares in Pembrokeshire and Neath Port Talbot. 
 
Cllr David Simpson, Leader of Pembrokeshire County Council, said: “Today’s announcement that the Celtic Freeport Bid has been successful is fantastic news for Pembrokeshire, Wales and Great Britain. 

“The Celtic Freeport will unleash the full green industrial potential of Wales, accelerating the decarbonisation of our most carbon intensive industries and bringing new opportunities to our communities, major international investment and thousands of high skilled jobs to the region.” 
 
Will Bramble CBE, Chief Executive of Pembrokeshire County Council, added: “The Celtic Freeport will produce significant investment in the region, particularly the focused areas of upskilling our workforce and ultimately creating job opportunities here in south west Wales.  Fundamentally this will now put us at the leading edge of the green industrial revolution.”  
 
Cllr Steve Hunt, Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council, said: “Today’s announcement is an absolute game changer for Neath Port Talbot and for Wales.  It will transform the fortunes of people in all our communities. It puts us at the forefront of the world’s green energy revolution and our residents will soon be working in the industry of the future, learning the skills for securing green, well paid jobs. 
 
Karen Jones, Chief Executive of Neath Port Talbot Council, said: “This great news is the first step towards a much brighter future here in our county borough.  I look forward to working with our partners to make sure local people and businesses have the best possible benefit from what’s now in front of us.” 
 
Tom Sawyer, Chief Executive of the Port of Milford Haven, said: “As the UK’s Energy Port, the Port of Milford Haven welcomes this fantastic news which allows us to build on the significant multi-million pound investment we’ve already made in the renewables sector at Pembroke Port.  But what really excites us about this announcement today is the positive impact it’s going to have on our coastal communities. Securing the jobs of today and creating fantastic opportunities for future generations.” 
 
Andrew Harston, Regional Director, Associated British Ports, said: “Associated British Ports is absolutely delighted that our Celtic Freeport bid has been successful. Floating offshore wind in the Celtic Sea is a once in a lifetime opportunity for Wales, and the scale needed is immense.  

“ABP stands ready to invest £500 million in our port at Port Talbot to ensure first mover advantage to capture this global market. We want our ports to act as a base for FLOW manufacturing, maintenance and operations. And it’s not just about FLOW, it’s about sustainable fuels and hydrogen too.” 

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