An opportunity that cannot be missed – The Celtic Freeport

Celtic Freeport is an exciting project that will unlock the widest possible opportunities for Wales by accelerating innovation and encouraging significant investment, while fast-tracking modern skills for new green industries and national decarbonisation.

In September 2022, the Welsh and UK Governments invited proposals for a freeport in Wales. The closing date for bids was 24 November 2022, with the winning bid expected to be announced in early spring 2023. The Celtic Freeport bid was lodged on behalf of a public-private consortium whose partners include Associated British Ports (ABP), Neath Port Talbot Council, Pembrokeshire County Council and the Port of Milford Haven.

Our director and co-founder Richard Selby recently shared his thoughts on the significant potential of the bid with Business News Wales. (You can listen to the recording here if you’d like)

He said:

The major impact that it will have on Wales I think is a huge growth potential for the Welsh economy, not just south west Wales. Clearly, that would be a major impact for all of Wales and probably a ripple effect into the UK, which will be precedented and will be a turning point for the industry here in Wales as we move from high carbon intensive industries and shift towards these low carbon industries, which will be the future of our nation.

“Industry across Wales needs to adapt generally in order to meet our decarbonisation targets. The skill sets that we have across industries in Wales are very high in terms of the ability of the people we have here. And certainly, as a steel fabrication company owner, we are looking at where our goods and services can be best placed within the opportunity that the Celtic Freeport provides to Wales. Now that might not be necessarily at the front door, but what are those things that we could be doing as part of this wider supply chain? So, we might not be selling directly into the area, but we might be one or two tiers behind supporting a segment of the project.

“And I think that is what’s exciting is how we can really use all of the resources in the companies that we have here, the fantastic SMEs, to come together and collaborate towards this opportunity. The skills sector in Wales will need to adapt quickly in order to provide the best opportunity for the people of Wales. And that starts with young people and them understanding the magnitude of this opportunity. So, we need to be talking to primary school kids about those career opportunities that they have ahead of them. The colleges, the schools, universities need to be focusing their attention on working with industry to develop the programmes of learning that will help to deliver the opportunities that are ahead of us and develop future opportunities as technologies are created.

“Here in Wales, we do not get our fair share of innovation funding and we need to be a little bit more bullish in terms of our aspiration to achieve that innovation funding and support the skills industry that the Celtic Freeport will provide. The Celtic Freeport will certainly support Welsh Government’s targets of decarbonisation towards 2030 and beyond. What’s necessary for all of us to decarbonise is to create more green electricity, taking out gas from our production systems and things like that. Steelmaking requires significant electricity production. Moving to EV vehicles requires significant electricity production, and we are in danger if we do not start creating more green energy quickly of not being able to achieve those targets. So fundamentally, the FLOW project around Wales, I believe, can only be the start of the Green Revolution of Wales. It needs to be the catalyst for further green electricity production projects and that will only then enable the rest of industry to decarbonise, which I think we’re all aligned on, is where we need to get to. But we have to be clear in the process that we don’t want to end up with unintended consequences of solving one problem and creating another. We need to be very systematic in terms of create the green electricity and then move along the policy of industry using that green electricity to move away from the current resources.

“A green investment corridor in Wales would certainly open up the Celtic Freeport right along the M4 to me here in Pontypool, and that would dovetail in terms of future reliable projects which we have great visibility on. And at this point in time, to a lot of industry, this project might seem a little bit far away. But this is the time where leaders and directors across Wales need to be thinking about where is that opportunity, where can I be placed in order to help solve the creation of this floating offshore wind and other green projects, hydrogen, for example, from the Celtic Freeport, where one, we can hit our decarbonisation targets, but two, we can also achieve sustainable, profitable growth for our own companies, which create added value and growth to the economy in terms of GDP per capita.

“Currently, we haven’t done anything that has achieved change in that GDP per capita for the last 30 years. This is the key opportunity I think, which could revolutionise not just the green industry but the whole economy of Wales. My message to government regarding the Celtic Freeport is that this is an opportunity that cannot be missed. We talk about levelling up the whole of the UK and this is not just levelling up, this is transformational to the economy of Wales. It needs the support of both the Welsh and the UK Governments to come together to support industry to be able to deliver its own success in the development of a Celtic Freeport, which delivers renewable energy and enhanced prosperity for the people of Wales.”