A question mark has been cast over the financing of the new Humber Freeport company following the estuary of an offshore wind turbine manufacturer.
Financial modeling of how the zone will work was based in part on South Korean steel monopoly manufacturer SeAH Wind becoming one of the anchor bearings in the new Able Marine Energy Park on the South Bank.
It had committed to the North Killingholme site back in September 2020, but recently revealed it was heading further north and opened a new £ 200 million facility on the Tees, where it will instead create the 750 new jobs.
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It has now entered the planning process.
The Able site is one of three tax zones in Humber Freeport, which is part of the government’s flagship policy after Brexit, which aims to promote investment zones in ports around the UK. Tax and business rates raised in each zone will be managed and reinvested by the free port company instead of automatically going to the government.
As the free port will hardly be financially self-sufficient for at least three years, the region’s four local councils are in the process of signing a total £ 3 million loan to cover its start-up costs. But SeAH’s shift has increased uncertainty about the economy.
Hull City Council members have called for loan repayment assurances. Speaking at a review meeting, Secretary of State John Fareham said: “The free port is very much to the benefit of trade and employers, and although the public purse gets some benefits, it should not end up keeping the child as it was.
“We need to know exactly what the situation is on the repayments, where we currently appear to be on this, and where we are going. It’s a massive issue of public finances.”
Cllr Fareham added that he was grateful that the Associated British Ports had largely covered the cost of the submission process to have the free port officially approved and established. He said the focus should now be on ensuring that the free port could function effectively.
At the same meeting, Hull’s deputy director of major projects, Garry Tayor, said: “The whole of the South Bank was effectively running on the back of the SeAH investment. The South Bank element of the free port.
“There are ongoing discussions about what the alternative could be in that regard, because it’s a pretty big blow to the free port as a whole. This was basically a super investor, just like Siemens. They come about once every 50 years. .
“The whole Able site was based on the premise of landing this investment. The free port will hopefully be able to help with any alternatives, but it is companies that make investment decisions in the long run and the negotiations around this had taken place in a significant number of years, so it is not immediately there will be another incoming investor.
“UK Plc has maintained the investment, which is good, but for the Humber region it would have been a major investment that would have had a halo effect in the same way as the Siemens development has had on the North Bank. Although there are positive pages about the free port spaces on the North Bank, the current focus is on what the future dynamics will be on the South Bank. “
Able UK, developer of Able Marine Energy Park, has already said that SeAH’s withdrawal will delay realization – with another investor, GRI Renewables, not yet responding to the move.
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