Roger Hargreaves, Director of Maritime at the Department for Transport, discusses the ongoing importance of the maritime sector to the UK economy and some of the strides made by government in recent months towards achieving key strategic goals.
The maritime sector plays an integral role in the UK’s success.
It not only provides the lifeblood of this country’s economy – it is our gateway to the world.
And of course our ports – from Immingham to Southampton – are at the heart of that success.
They keep the wheels of international trade turning 24/7 – they keep food in the shops, fuel in our cars and enable UK products to reach the rest of the globe.
It is therefore crucial that our ports and the wider maritime sector have the right tools to thrive – not just today but tomorrow too.
That’s why in January we launched our Maritime 2050 Strategy, laying out our vision for the industry over the next 30 years.
This bold and far reaching plan spans a huge range of areas. It covers everything from how best to harness technology and improve our infrastructure to the steps the industry must take to benefit from clean growth.
Maritime 2050 is undoubtedly ambitious in its scope, but its goals are purposely designed to be achievable.
At the heart of this document are some key aims.
Firstly, we want to enable the UK to remain a global leader in all aspects of maritime, from innovation and research to clean growth and security.
Next, we want to position this country as an international role model. This involves promoting a liberalised trading regime, building a diverse and skilled workforce, setting exemplary safety standards and taking the lead on our environmental obligations.
Finally, Maritime 2050 sets out our determination to demonstrate to the world that the UK is the place to do maritime business by highlighting our unique selling points. That of course includes our renowned professional services industry and our maritime clusters with their areas of industry specialism throughout the country.
And of course, next month we will have a fantastic opportunity to further showcase the UK’s maritime industry to a global audience at London International Shipping Week.
Undoubtedly it will take time to turn Maritime 2050’s bold vision into a reality.
However, there have been some exciting early signs of progress.
In July we launched our Clean Maritime Plan, laying out how we will achieve the Strategy’s environmental goals, as well as turning the UK into a global hub for green maritime innovation.
And our ports are also increasingly utilising automation, ensuring that freight is handled in a way that is even more efficient and secure.
I know through my work at the Department for Transport that there are many other exciting initiatives underway the length and breadth of the country.
It’s crucial that we maintain this dynamic approach if we are to keep pace with the rest of the world.
Forecasts for the continued growth of global maritime trade mean that there will be numerous opportunities for ports and the UK shipping industry over the next decades. It is vital that we are every bit as ready as our international competitors to seize them.
But while the coming years are exciting, they will undoubtedly contain challenges too, as trading patterns and geo-politics shift and new technology emerges.
Maritime 2050 lays the crucial groundwork that will position this country not only to be ready to meet these challenges but embrace them too and secure our place at the forefront of this global sector.
However, it’s also important to point out that while Maritime 2050 has been carefully developed, its scope can be adapted so we are able to contend with new issues as they emerge.
It’s equally vital to highlight that this strategy is very much a shared endeavour between Government and industry.
I know that representatives from across the sector have devoted many hours to its development and I’d like to thank them for those efforts.
We must continue in that same spirit of the collaboration and cooperation over the years to come.
By working together to achieve the ambitions set out in Maritime 2050 we will ensure this sector not only thrives today but also enjoys an even brighter future.