Tom O'Brien, Liverpool Freeport, P.Liverpool Locval Enterprise Partnership
O'Brien has worked at the World Bank for the last 27 years. Credit: via Liverpool Local Enterprise Partnership

World Bank veteran to chair Liverpool freeport board

Dan Whelan

Thomas O’Brien will oversee the development and operation of the city region’s freeport having been appointed by the combined authority and local enterprise partnership. 

Liverpool born O’Brien has spent the last 27 years as a director and senior advisor at the World Bank in Washington DC. 

O’Brien also spent four years as chief executive of the Mersey Partnership to between 2001 and 2005 and has also been an economic adviser at HM Treasury. 

His appointment as chair designate of the Liverpool City Region Freeport Management Board follows an extensive recruitment campaign. 

“I am honoured to take on this important role,” O’Brien said.   

“The Liverpool City Region Freeport is an exciting new program of national significance that will create new jobs and better business locations to the benefit of people across our community.”    

In March, the Liverpool City Region was announced by chancellor Rishi Sunak as one of eight places across England to be granted freeport status. 

Freeports are specially designated economic zones where usual tax and customs rules do not apply. They aim to encourage import, export and other commercial activity. For example, imports can enter a freeport with simplified customs checks and without paying tariffs. 

The three development areas proposed for tax sites in the Liverpool City Region freeport are Peel L&P’s Wirral Waters mixed-use scheme, Langtree’s Parkside colliery regeneration in St Helens, and Stobart’s 3MG [Mersey Multi Modal Gateway] development in Widnes.  

Peel L&P’s proposed multi-modal terminal on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal in Salford was also included in Liverpool City Region’s bid, despite it being in Greater Manchester. 

Asif Hamid, LEP chair, said: “The Freeport offers a huge opportunity to accelerate our economic growth and create thousands of new jobs for the local community. 

“In Tom we have a leader with impeccable credentials and a proven track record in bringing the public and private sector together to great effect all over the world.” 

Recruitment of other members of the board is ongoing and the board will formally be established in the autumn.    

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Good news for the North of England. We got a big trade deal with the Moroccans and so far the ships from Tangier Med and Casa are only coming to Felixstowe. It would be a good illustration of ‘leveling up’.

By Robert Fuller

The UK has left the world’s biggest economic unit and its biggest trading partner. All trade deals made since merely restore EU trading conditions but nothing more. Nobody in their right mind will offer the UK a better deal than the EU gets, because the EU would not stand for it. Free Ports are okay for low wage screwdriver plants. But, the UK cannot offer unrestricted access to the EU market, so low-wage UK assembly plants make no sense. Nissan only stays for millions of pounds of secret govt grants. Liverpool Port will have to survive on Northern England trade and docking space for 2 mega-container ships: it is not Rotterdam, Hamburg or Antwerp. Little Britain has Felixstowe and Southampton; that is all. Liverpool is merely a European feeder port. Face the facts.

By James Yates

@james yates

The fact is you’re unable to say what the effect of the freeport status will mean in 5 to 10 years time. The dynamics of trade have begun to change post Covid and in light of other geopolitical realities that didn’t exist 2 years ago.
What you’ve wrote might have been more relevant in 2017 to 2019.

I wouldn’t want to even try to guess what other unforeseen changes will happen within the next decade. Then others in the succeeding one that renders all ports redundant perhaps? Who knows … no one in reality and that is about the closest to a fact there is in this world.

By Anonymous