FREEPORT bosses hope Harwich’s Bathside Bay will play a major role in the construction of offshore windfarms after a new report revealed major challenges for the industry.

The Government announced last year that Harwich and Felixstowe would become a freeport, which means the area will benefit from tax reliefs and simplified customs procedures.

It is aimed at encouraging economic activity, which is seen as a means of boosting global trade following Brexit

Freeport East has now welcomed a new report from the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult (ORE Catapult) as an important contribution to help accelerate the upgrades required to UK port infrastructure to support commercial-scale floating offshore wind deployment.

The report focuses on port infrastructure issues and proposes pathways for economic growth including models for increased Government funding support which is considered critical to ensure the UK captures the benefits of this new energy sector.

Freeport East said offshore wind is critical to achieving the UK Government’s Net Zero targets, improved energy security and lower electricity bills but risks being "derailed" by a lack of port capacity.

The uncertainty surrounding the development pipeline, with multiple different projects, developers and their supply chains all competing for Government support, makes expanding port capacity difficult, the Freeport said.

Steve Beel, Freeport East’s chief executive, said Bathside Bay in Harwich could play a "significant role" in addressing the challenge.

He said: “The UK cannot deliver the range of economic benefits of achieving Net Zero without offshore wind and cannot achieve offshore wind expansion without a significant step up in port capacity.

"The problems are similar for both floating and fixed offshore wind.

"Freeport East is positioned to support both and we are actively engaged in this important discussion, facilitating private sector investments into our ports.

“Freeport East welcomes ORE's contribution to the debate, their emphasis on the urgency of the issue as well as the need for multiple port solutions around the UK.

"Freeport East Harwich offers a unique combination of advantages, including local experience, land availability, planning arrangements, water depth and proximity to the North Sea, making it an ideal location for manufacturing and installation for both floating and bottom-fixed offshore wind projects.

“With over 5GW of upcoming projects off the East Anglia coast alone and the southern North Sea being viewed as a clean energy hub for both the UK and Europe, the opportunities for Harwich and the wider area are significant"

Harwich and Manningtree Standard: Challenge - Steve Beel chief executive of Freeport East said Harwich can play a significant role in meeting the challenge of net zero and economic growthChallenge - Steve Beel chief executive of Freeport East said Harwich can play a significant role in meeting the challenge of net zero and economic growth (Image: Freeport East)

The report raises barriers to investment, factors affecting competitiveness, and ways to mitigate risks.

It aims to facilitate private sector investment in support of floating wind deployment through 2030 and beyond, crucial for the UK's renewable energy goals.

The UK has set ambitious targets for offshore wind development, aiming to achieve 50GW by 2030, including up to 5GW of floating offshore wind capacity.

Bathside Bay, located at Harwich International Port, has already secured planning permission for the development of a new container terminal.

Phase one of this project started in 2022 on existing land, and the next phase involves reclaiming the bay and constructing the quay wall, resulting in the creation of up to 122 hectares of new port land.