Business Insider hosts Celtic Freeport breakfast event

19 January 2023

On Thursday 19 January, Business Insider hosted a breakfast event on the Celtic Freeport bid at Brangwyn Hall, Swansea. In a packed room, the breakfast was attended by approximately 100 potential stakeholders who had an interest in the opportunities that could come from a Celtic Freeport, and who had the opportunity to ask questions about the bid.       

Two men and two women sat on panel at event

In a panel discussion chaired by Douglas Friedli, Editor of Wales Business Insider focused on the gains that could be unlocked with a two-site freeport located at Milford Haven and Port Talbot.

Speakers included:

•           Karen Jones, CEO, Neath Port Talbot Council

•           Tom Sawyer, CEO, Port of Milford Haven

•           Chris Williams, South Wales Industrial Cluster

•           Phillipa Powell, Project Lead for Celtic Sea Floating Wind, RWE

Karen Jones highlighted how a Celtic Freeport could benefit the economy and people of Neath Port Talbot. She said:

"What we see the freeport opportunity as being able to do is unlock the opportunity to bring investment into our areas to enable us to take the economic benefits that will come from the floating offshore wind farm development in the Celtic Sea, but also the wider renewable energy sector, including hydrogen."

Tom Sawyer talked about how being part of a freeport would help to stimulate business around the port of Milford Haven, and south-west Wales more broadly. He said:

"The creation of a Celtic Freeport is a really significant piece of public policy that will allow us to accelerate the route to net zero.

"When we talk about the port, it's really important to remember that there are two ports involved in this freeport bid: ABP Port Talbot and Milford Haven... This will mean there are two ports doing discrete things, complimentary to each other, that will recognise the fact no single port in south-west Wales can satisfy the demand of the fielding of the Celtic Sea array."

Phillipa Powell highlighted that there will be huge potential for the energy industry. She said:

"There is huge opportunity for developers, but also the whole supply chain that will need to come in to help us develop our projects, and supply our projects, operate our projects, install our projects etc.

"In terms of the supply chain benefits, they'll be spread across not just south Wales, but also the south-west of England, and we can't forget the rest of the nation."   

Chris Williams discussed how the freeport bid could help Wales reach net zero. He said:

"The region that we're based needs to be a region that's developing massive amounts of renewable power, and it needs to be a region that's developing massive amounts of hydrogen.

"Much of our industries at the moment, let's just say a biscuit factory, might be using natural gas to cook its biscuits, in the future it won't want to do that because it will want to make net-zero biscuits. So, it will want to convert that oven either from a gas oven to an electric oven or maybe a hydrogen oven.

"Either way, it's going to transition its own facility. That facility then needs to be supplied with that electricity or hydrogen, so that infrastructure needs to develop...that's were the Celtic Freeport can help the wider industrial base in south Wales."

You can watch back the event in full here.