The Maritime Minister, Kelly Tolhurst MP, expresses her gratitude to the maritime workforce for keeping supply chains moving and recounts key achievements over the past year, which provide strong foundations for greater economic resilience that will help businesses recover from the COVID-19 crisis.
Let me start by thanking everyone in the ports sector for your incredible response to the coronavirus crisis, and for everything you have done over the past few months to keep this country moving and supplied with vital goods. Without your work and dedication, Britain would have ground to a halt, and we could not have supported the vast majority of the population who stayed at home.
Everyone from port managers to marine pilots has carried out their vital tasks under very challenging circumstances. You are all among the heroes of this pandemic. So once again, thank you.
However, the journey is not yet over. We undoubtedly have more difficult days to face, and no one can know for certain what the future holds. We may see changes in trade – such as changes to supply lines and new routes opening up around the world. So while it is vitally important that we take action together to see through this crisis, we must also build resilience, secure the smooth recovery of the industry, and emerge in a strong position to take advantage of new opportunities.
“Without your work and dedication, Britain would have ground to a halt, and we could not have supported the vast majority of the population who stayed at home.”
My department and I are in regular discussion with every corner of the maritime industry but as an island nation, ports are particularly crucial to our future prosperity. Your continued engagement and support remains critical in ensuring that we make the right decisions for ports and their users, and I will continue to work closely with you.
Over the last year there has been much to celebrate within the industry. During London International Shipping Week, we launched the first Port Economic Partnership (PEP) with ABP at Southampton Port. PEPs represent a new approach by government and ports to create greater synergy between the private and public-sectors, to improve port infrastructure and boost capacity to help the industry grow.
Alongside this, we granted millions of pounds to ports across the country to increase their resilience in preparation for the UK’s exit from the EU. This support allowed ports to prepare extra capacity and other resilience measures so that our critical trade routes are ready for us to come out of the transition period at the end of the year.
We also began planning up to 10 freeports around the country. This ambitious and exciting programme will help maximise the potential of our maritime industry and regenerate communities across the UK. Freeports will be national hubs for trade, innovation and commerce, and I welcome the substantial interest they have prompted within the industry. We'll be progressing this as soon as practicably possible.
After some of the most challenging and turbulent months in our recent history, I know we have a lot of hard work ahead. But I also know Britain’s ports will continue delivering for the nation. And I look forward to a time where I can come and see all the fantastic work taking place, and thank you for your efforts in person.