We will maintain our world standing by listening to,
consulting with and working cooperatively with
our multitude of stakeholders in the maritime world.
Robert Courts MP, UK Government Shipping Minister
As I reflect on what has been another challenging year in which we have continued tackling the ongoing pandemic and the periods of uncertainty and adversity that brought us all, I am also filled with pride in all that the UK maritime sector has yet again achieved, despite the challenges it has faced.
We began 2021 facing a new trading environment as we finally left the EU, and some expressed concerns that the flow of goods and freight would be hugely impacted, further complicated by the second wave of Covid. That situation did not arise, and throughout the year our supply chains continued to meet the challenges that confronted them, keeping this country moving and food, goods and vital supplies flowing into the country. This is thanks in no small part to all those on the front lines, at our ports and on our maritime routes, as well as the work our stakeholders across the industry have done to collaborate with government and make sure we anticipated any issues before they arose.
As the year progressed, we saw the successful resumption of our cruise sector in late spring, with domestic sailings at first but then the resumption of international sailings later in the year. I cannot emphasise enough how much work went into the safe reintroduction of sailings, and I firmly believe that it represents an exceptional example of government and industry working collaborative to deliver a shared objective. The UK and international cruise sector contributes a significant amount to the UK economy, not just in cruise operators and ports themselves but supporting supply chains across the country, and I want to express my gratitude for all those involved in this work.
On the subject of cruises, I was delighted to have been given a tour of MS IONA, P&O’s new LNG powered ship, which as one of the first cruise ships in the world to be equipped with this propulsion system is a real asset to the UK Ship Register. The road to a fully decarbonised maritime fleet is a long one but the introduction of this and many other vessels operating using alternative fuels shows that the UK is committed to delivering a cleaner and greener sector.
As a Government we are committed to continuing to lead the quest to deliver decarbonisation right across the maritime sector. In the 2020 Spending Review we were granted £23m by the Chancellor which allowed us to launch the first Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition. The 39 successful winners were announced by the Secretary of State during London International Shipping Week 2021 and those projects are now progressing with their work to research, develop and deliver new and innovative solutions to bring us a step closer to delivering net zero by 2050.
As you know, London International Shipping Week was just the first of a series of major events held in 2021. It was fantastic to once again be able to meet and discuss the challenge of decarbonisation, stimulate trade, showcase the UK’s competitive advantage for maritime and to see the investment being pumped into our ports infrastructure. Among the highlights, an event hosted by the Chamber to announce £300m of investment into London Gateway, part of the new Thames Freeport by DP World, and the official opening of the new Horizon Cruise Terminal at ABP Southampton complete with shore power capabilities showed the world that the UK is the place to trade, visit and innovate.
This was followed by the Global Maritime Forum coming to London, where we welcomed the international maritime sector to showcase the best of what we do. Then COP26, where the eyes of the world turned to Glasgow as governments from around the world came together to discuss our role in combatting climate change. I was immensely proud to launch the Clydebank Declaration, where we joined other nations to commit to the establishment of the first ever green shipping corridors. This, alongside our work with industry to commit to new targets for decarbonising the UK’s offshore wind sector, again showed that the UK is at the forefront of delivering a cleaner maritime environment.
Maritime trade of course remains critically important to us as an island nation, and with over 90% of everything we consume coming to us by sea, the beating heart of our national economy. As we forge new trade deals around the world, our trade is still forecast to grow over the next 10 years. The investments we’ve seen in our infrastructure and the introduction of our new freeports means we are well prepared to deal with the uncertainties that can arise, and therefore even more attractive to global trading partners. The UK is an incredibly attractive prospect to global shipping and this government has every intention of maintaining this reputation. This is reflected in industry confidence in the UK: the investment at London Gateway, Immingham, Southampton and dozens of other ports all around the UK are a clear signal of the growing trade links that are being welcomed by the UK.
We cannot maintain our world standing without listening to, consulting with and working cooperatively with our multitudes of stakeholders in the maritime world. The dedication and open relationships we have with all our stakeholders make us all stronger, and I am confident that the work we do together means we are in a better position to help each other and the wider country to grow and prosper.
Collaboration is key – when Government and industry work hand-in-hand, we achieve great results. Maritime 2050, our high-level ambition for the sector, is once again gathering momentum after the speed bumps caused by the global pandemic. From maritime security to increasing diversity in the sector, driving forward decarbonisation and promoting maritime skills and careers once more, progress is being delivered.
The department will soon launch our recovery route map which will detail how we will continue to work with the maritime sector and build back stronger over the coming decade, as well as continuing to support our formidable maritime professional business services which remain some of the finest in the world.
I strongly believe that the UK is the best place in the world to do maritime business and we intend to grow that sector further and attract new business to the UK and increase our competitive advantage.
We have much to do and much to look forward to, and I would like to once again extend my
continued thanks to everyone in the sector for the support, determination and cooperation that they have demonstrated in working with my department over the past year. Since March 2020 we have faced some of our biggest challenges, but I believe that we have weathered the storm and are now emerging stronger, greener and more determined than ever to keep the UK the world’s leading maritime nation.