Highland port bids to become free-trade zone after Brexit

Normal tax and customs rules wouldn't apply at the Port of Cromarty Firth under the plans.

A free-trade zone could be created in a Highland port in a bid to reap financial benefits and create jobs.

Normal tax and customs rules would not apply under the plans, known as the ‘Opportunity Cromarty Firth’ project.

The UK Government intends to create ten free-trade zones after Brexit.

The bid has been launched by the Port of Cromarty Firth, neighbouring Global Energy Group and other partners from industry, academia and the public sector.

A free-trade zone in the Cromarty Firth would secure “a sustainable 50-year pipeline of work and jobs” in a post-Brexit world, they believe.

An easing of tax and customs rules would potentially stimulate economic activity and employment, and increase investment in renewable energy technology.

Bob Buskie, chief executive of the Port of Cromarty Firth, said: “The creation of free-trade zones are part of the UK Government’s economic growth strategy post-Brexit.

“There are plans to create up to ten across the UK. We believe Cromarty Firth is the ideal location to establish one of them.

“It’s steeped in industrial history, having supported North Sea oil and gas activity since the 1970s, and is now playing a critical role in the Scottish offshore wind sector.”

In free ports, imports are governed by simpler customs documentation.

Firms operating within designated areas in and around the port can make goods using the imports before exporting them without having to comply with full tariffs.

Roy MacGregor, chairman of Global Energy Group, said: “It’s our continuing desire to support the development of the Cromarty Firth and turn the Port of Nigg facility into an all-round energy hub.

“The investment that’s been made into Nigg since our purchase in 2011 has meant we’ve been able to develop an extensive track record in the delivery of renewables project both in manufacturing and as a staging port for two major offshore wind projects.”

The sheltered firth’s waters are used for parking oil and gas industry rigs and other installations while not in use or when they need refurbishment.

The firth also has a lucrative cruise ship business.

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