The UK’s Minister of State for Transport, John Hayes, has stated that the UK is under threat as a maritime centre, and has called for government and industry to cooperate in promoting the maritime industry.
In a speech he referred to as being “of immense importance,” the Minister stated that in the UK, “we don’t shout about our maritime industry enough,” and that the sector has an “unaccountably low public profile.”
As an island nation, up to 95% of the UK’s international trade is by sea. The minister stated that shipping contributes GBP5.6bn ($8.3bn) to the country’s gross domestic product and 107,000 people are employed in UK ports alone.
Hayes’ vision was of Britain as the world’s most important maritime centre, a goal that becomes more difficult as “other countries compete harder and harder”.
“Today, the UK remains home to a flourishing, dynamic and innovative maritime sector, successfully supporting UK trade and the wider economy. Seafaring, and the skills that support it, will be at the heart of our island nation’s life for all time,” he said.
The maritime cluster will face challenges as world trade patterns shift and growth is focused outside of Europe, Hayes conceded, but the industry has already responded well to technological change and the future of British shipping is in its schools and universities.
“The maritime trailblazer group on apprenticeships has also made great strides. In 2014 we had 1,940 officer cadets in training – again the highest figure for very many years,” said Hayes, adding that in October the country’s weakness in ratings training would be addressed by a pilot programme within the tonnage tax scheme adding the option to train three able seafarers in place of one officer cadet.
The Minister summarised with four points of action: “First, as I have made clear this afternoon, we must work collectively to raise the profile of the maritime sector.
“Second, we have to place even greater emphasis on supporting business, and welcoming foreign companies who wish to come to the UK.
“Third, and I promised to be frank, we in government have to operate in a more joined up fashion.
“Fourth – we have to accomplish these goals while sustaining and enhancing our reputation for safety, for quality and for the highest standards in everything we do.”