Ports Infrastructure – what do the election manifestos tell us?

United Kingdom

In April this year, the Labour party pledged to invest up to £1.8bn into port infrastructure if they win the 2024 general election. The planned investment forms part of Labour’s Green Prosperity Plan, with shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves saying ports would be at the centre of Labour’s plans to make Britain a clean energy superpower. 

But what else do the general election manifestos of the major UK parties tell us about the future for ports infrastructure in the UK?

With the exception of Reform UK, all the main UK political parties target a substantial increase in offshore renewable energy to accelerate the transition away from reliance on fossil fuels, and a number of them identify upgrades to ports infrastructure as being essential to faciliate that transition.     

Labour’s £1.8bn pledge

Following on from Labour’s announcement in April about their port investment plans, the Labour party’s manifesto backs up that pledge with a commitment “to allocate £1.8bn to upgrade ports and build supply chains across the UK”. The sight of Sir Keir Starmer and shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves campaigning at the Port of Portsmouth in June also helped confirm their commitment to upgrading ports infrastructure.

The Labour party believes government investment into ports infrastructure will help stimulate billions of pounds of private sector investment into ports, harbours and the energy industry. There’s little supporting detail in their manifesto about what form such upgrades would take, but read alongside Labour’s plan to create a National Wealth Fund to help the UK to become a clean energy superpower, and their plan to work with the private sector to quadruple offshore wind by 2030, it seems likely that supporting the clean energy transition would be the main focus of any ports infrastructure upgrade. Labour’s Green Prosperity Plan would aim to spend an additional £5bn a year on delivering green energy growth.

Conservative Party Pledges

The Tory party manifesto doesn’t carry eye-catching investment figures, but they do promise to “back our maritime sector, including shipping and ports as it decarbonises”. Pointing to the 12 freeports already established and nearly £3bn in investment already generated, they promise to create even more freeports to deliver jobs and investment “from the Cromarty Firth to Port Talbot”. Further commitments to boost coastal activity include trebling offshore wind capacity, building more electricity links with neighbouring countries, and providing a bonus on top of contract payments that support offshore wind.

The other main UK-wide parties

The Liberal Democrats’ manifesto features a number of plans to accelerate the development and use of renewable energy, including supporting investment in tidal and wave power. This is likely to generate investment in ports infrastructure, but there are no direct references or commitments to the ports industry in the Liberal Democrats’ manifesto.

The Green party, on the other hand, are committed to consulting with the wind energy sector on the best mechanisms for ”equipping ports and supply chains to better support floating offshore wind”. They want to pave the way for wind to provide around 70% of the UK’s electricity by 2030, with a target to achieve 80GW of offshore wind by 2035, which would be a significant increase on the 13GW currently generated by offshore wind.  

In contrast to the other main parties contesting the UK general election, the Reform UK manifesto links “a dramatic increase in energy bills” with “the huge increase in renewables capacity over the last 15 years”, and so they plan to raise £10bn by taxing the renewables industry. They make no specific commitments to the ports sector, but instead Reform UK are committed to increasing the UK’s fishing fleet and to including fishing communities in policy making, and to boosting businesses in coastal regeneration areas. 


The SNP manifesto identifies the pathway to net zero as being through significant growth in energy storage, hydrogen and carbon capture, some of it which we can assume would require some investment in the ports involved in those projects. The SNP believes Scotland is well placed to supply significant amounts of hydrogen to continental Europe through direct interconnection between Scotland and the continent, but its manifesto doesn’t single out ports infrastructure.   

In addition to its pledges for ports investment mentioned above, Labour aims to ensure a “phased and responsible transition in the North Sea that recognises the proud history of our offshore industry of our offshore industry and the brilliance of its workforce, particularly in Scotland…”. Scotland is also to be the location of the Great British Energy headquarters, a publicly owned company that will partner with industry and trade unions to deliver clean power by co-investing in leading technologies, albeit mainly with an onshore remit.   

In Scotland, the Conservative party adds to its pledge to back ports mentioned above with a commitment to support Scotland’s workforce to transition to new industries such as carbon capture, offshore wind, hydrogen and tidal by providing £15m to support the Energy Transition Zone’s skills programme.


Plaid Cymru don’t make any direct references to ports infrastructure in their manifesto, but they do want to devolve the Crown Estate to Wales so that the benefit of energy projects in Wales’ waters is returned to Wales.

The Conservatives say they remain committed to investing £580m to secure the sustainability of steelmaking in Port Talbot and to help the area to thrive, including through the Celtic Freeport.

There are no Wales-specific pledges in the Labour party manifesto related to ports or the offshore renewables industry over and above the UK-wide pledges described above.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, the Democratic Unionist party target Northern Ireland establishing itself as a global leader in hydrogen technology and clean energy, and Sinn Fein commits to a significant increase in offshore energy by 2030, including through a centralised model for offshore wind development whereby the final network is owned, maintained and operated by Eirgrid to allow it to reach 80% renewables by 2030. Although it’s fair to assume that ports upgrades would be needed to support both party’s plans, there are no direct references to ports infrastructure in either manifesto.   


Whatever the outcome of the 2024 UK general election it’s clear there is almost total agreement amongst the UK’s main political parties that the UK’s ports need significant investment over the term of the next parliament, and a commitment to helping to unlock that investment either directly or indirectly. Investment in ports is likely to be targeted both as a driver of economic growth and to support the UK’s transition to a green energy future. The ports infrastructure industry can start preparing for a busy few years.