Chancellor of the Exchequer and Richmond MP Rishi Sunak told the Teesside shipping community that it’s time to show the world what Teesside can do.
Delivering the opening address at the Tees and Hartlepool Port Users’ Association’s (THPUA) 2021 annual dinner last night (19 Nov 2021), Mr Sunak commended members on dealing with the combined challenges of the global pandemic and EU exit and also spoke of regional collaboration and acknowledged the huge opportunities that lay ahead for the region.
Mr Sunak praised members for keeping their organisations and the river Tees open for business throughout the pandemic. He described the solutions that the Tees shipping community had developed to provide COVID-19 vaccinations to seafarers as being ‘pioneering’ and stated: “This is a brilliant advert for Teesside, Teesside industry and your river community”.
He recognised that the UK’s timing of its exit from the European Union had added further challenges for Teesside’s shipping community but commented that its response was admirable and said: ” With this community spirit, collaboration, innovation and resolve its no surprise it had been successful in its Freeport bid.”
Mr Sunak emphasised his commitment to Teesside’s Freeport, stating: “It is an absolute priority for me to ensure that the Teesside Freeport fulfils its potential, and I know that all of you will get behind Ben Houchen, Tees Valley Mayor to make that happen.”
He continued: “The Freeport is also a fantastic opportunity for all of you and for the Tees and Hartlepool Port Users’ Association as it highlights the port and the Tees as the lifeblood of the region.”
The Chancellor acknowledged that a number of THPUA members were directly involved with the Freeport, with their sites forming secondary customs zones and enabling the Teesside Freeport to be the ‘largest and undoubtedly the most ambitious Freeport bid’.
Mr Sunak concluded: “It’s been a long time coming for Teesside but now we finally have our opportunity to shine and to show the world what we can do. This is a huge moment for the whole of Teesside. Teesside and the River Tees in particular, clearly have a very exciting future ahead”.
Maggie Simpson OBE, Director General of the Rail Freight Group, the representative body for rail freight in the UK, provided the keynote speech at the event, which took place at the Jury’s Inn in Middlesbrough. Mrs Simpson spoke of the intrinsic link between Teesside, its port and the rail network. She said: “The fortunes of Teesside and the fortunes of the railways have always been intertwined. They were intertwined in the past, they are today, and I believe they will be in the future too.”
Commenting on Teesside and the Freeport opportunity, she added: “The region is scarcely out of the news! The new freeport, launched by Mayor Ben Houchen in October has significant potential for the region, encompassing multiple sites including THPUA members’ sites at AV Dawson’s Port of Middlesbrough, Able UK’s Seaton Port, PD Ports, Redcar Bulk Terminal, Wilton Group, LV Shipping and Liberty Steel Hartlepool, as well as supporting business right across the region through supply chain opportunities and future investment.”
Speaking after the event, Gary Dawson, THPUA chair said: The work that our members do is critical to the success of Teesside and the wider region. This year has been particularly tough and so it has been fantastic to finally be able to come together to celebrate what has been achieved. The energy and ambition on the river and across Teesside is currently at an all time high and it feels like there has never been a more exciting time to be working in the region.”
Mr Dawson continued: “I was thrilled when Mr Sunak agreed to give a speech at our annual dinner, which was originally scheduled for March 2020 but had to be rescheduled a couple of times due to COVID-19. While Mr Sunak’s speech ended up having to be a pre-recorded video message rather than in person, his passion and enthusiasm came through loud and clear.”