Thank you for inviting me this evening (16 July 2015).
As some of you may know, my interest in the maritime world extends well beyond the mere duties of office.
I have a direct stake in the success of the industry myself.
I am the proud owner of the MV Coronia.
A pleasure steamer based out of Scarborough.
She has a distinguished history.
After her launch in the 1930s she saw service at Dunkirk, rescuing 900 men.
Today she works the Yorkshire coast offering short cruises to the people of Scarborough and the town’s many visitors.
So I understand the importance of our maritime industry.
Especially when you consider that with 95% of our international trade coming and going by sea, without the shipping industry life as we know it on this island would be inconceivable.
And then there’s the millions of jobs the industry supports.
And the professional services British businesses supply to visiting merchant ships.
Shipping is just as vital to the UK as it always has been.
For all its great history, the British shipping industry hasn’t lost its fierce spirit of enterprise.
Which is a good thing, given the competition we are facing from emerging maritime centres such as Singapore and Hong Kong.
This evening, I want to set out the top 5 things occupying my attention as Shipping Minister.
Industrial action at Calais
First, there’s the unacceptable disruption to cross-Channel services of recent weeks.
If we are going to avoid further disruption, we need the French to make sure the port at Calais is secure.
I have held a series of talks with transport ministers across Europe in order to put pressure on France to resolve this issue.
And the Prime Minister has taken up the issue with President Hollande.
Of course, when migrants exploit the situation, it makes things worse.
We have already invested millions of pounds in security at Calais, and are ready to do more if necessary.
But it’s a problem that needs to be solved at source.
So we are working with our European partners to stem the appalling trafficking of people across the Mediterranean.
Maritime Growth Study
The second big issue at the forefront of my attention is ensuring the British maritime industry remains internationally competitive.
We know there are challenges facing the maritime industry, but we need to better understand them.
Just as we need to better understand the opportunities we have to meet those challenges.
That was our intention in launching the Maritime Growth Study in November.
Lord Mountevans is chairing the Study, advised by a panel of experts.
Together they have collected evidence from the shipping world, trades unions, government agencies and many others.
Lord Mountevans is set to publish his report at London International Shipping Week in September.
But I am pleased to say that this week we will publish the evidence he has gathered so far.
Alongside 2 other reports commissioned as part of the Maritime Growth Study.
One is a report of a study commissioned by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to review the performance of the UK Ship Register.
And the other is a report commissioned from economists at Oxera on our international maritime competitiveness.
The initial findings in these reports shouldn’t surprise anyone.
The UK is still a leading force in the maritime world.
But the government and the industry need to provide more leadership.
We need to invest in maritime skills.
And the industry needs to be better promoted.
London International Shipping Week 2015
The Maritime Growth Study needs to be followed by action.
And that action must begin as soon as the full report is published.
At London International Shipping Week – the third important issue occupying my attention.
We intend that the week will be the most important global maritime event of 2015.
Attracting the top 200 global leaders to London, along with thousands more maritime movers and shakers.
It will be a great opportunity for us to promote the UK’s maritime and marine industries.
And we intend to use the week to full effect.
Port services regulation
The fourth matter at the top of my red box is the port services regulation.
I am aware of the concerns about that regulation, and I share many of those concerns.
During the negotiations, we argued that fairer competition between ports, not greater regulation of their internal operations, would be the best way to increase efficiency across Europe.
I know opposition to the regulation will continue; not least from the ports themselves.
But we must be pragmatic.
We have made progress since the initial proposal.
That improvement is reflected in what is known as the Council General Approach.
The government will now defend what we have achieved through the negotiations.
And we will examine proposed amendments from MEPs, in addition to the 98 that have been proposed by the Rapporteur: some of which look like genuine improvements on the original proposal.
Marine conservation zones
The fifth matter is something that I know is of concern to the ports sector; the designation and enforcement of marine conservation zones.
The intention behind these zones is a good one: the protection of rare and threatened marine habitats and species.
The first 27 conservation zones were designated by Defra in 2013, and management measures for these sites are currently being implemented.
Defra is committed to designating more zones in future, and work to choose them is underway.
We will continue to work with Defra to ensure only those sites that achieve a balance between ecological advantages and economic costs are designated.
Any detrimental impact to ports or shipping must be taken into account and minimised.
I will be working with my colleagues in Defra to ensure that remains the case.
So those are the top 5 things on my to-do list.
Of course, the full list is a lot longer, but I hope I’ve been able to give you a sense of our commitment to protect our maritime industry.
To promote it.
And to ensure its growth.
I am very happy to take your questions.