Thank you for that kind introduction Jan. This country’s shipping industry is, and always will be, fundamental to our prosperity and our security. I am incredibly proud to be the Maritime Minister, and I want to be here, a constructive friend to the industry.
As we move forward together, I can already see that positive steps are being taken and real progress is being made. We have already made significant steps:
- On light dues, I’ve recently confirmed a move to full funding of Irish Lights from Irish domestic sources by 2015 or 2016
- On ship to ship transfers, I have suspended legislation that would have pushed ships 12.1 miles out from our coast
But there are challenges. On the issue of equality of pay, I will have to introduce some legislation following infraction proceedings. These will be the minimum provisions though and I will do all I can to make a level playing field across the EU. Turning to piracy, a huge challenge and concern for our industry - I know that in reality many UK flagged ships are already employing armed guards to protect themselves. If shipping companies choose to have them, I don’t want cowboys on ships - I want properly trained security companies. That is why I am looking at our guidance on this issue to give the industry support and advice if they choose to go down this route.
On the broader economic front, this government is tackling our inherited debt so as to create the conditions that will help private businesses, just like those you represent, to thrive. Yes, the challenges we face mean we are navigating our way through some choppy economic seas. But cutting the deficit is the best way to spark demand, spur job creation and strengthen our economy, and that’s why we must stick to the course we have set out. This need for growth is one of the reasons that I want to look very closely at all the trust ports round the UK to make sure that they have the right commercial ambitions to grow. The other way we will grow is to invest in our young people. That is why we have protected the SMART budget this year and want to work together with you as part of our review to find the most effective way of supporting our young trainees.
When it comes to offshore renewables, I warmly welcome the co-operation being provided by the shipping and ports industries. It is possible to realise the full potential of this new source of clean energy in a way that does not compromise the economic viability of our shipping our ports industries, nor compromise navigational safety.
I want to protect our seas as well so that we can have a renaissance in coastal shipping. We are an island nation and we need to transport more goods by sea. Working together, I truly believe that we can build that successful and sustainable future. That’s what excites me about my job and that’s why I am incredibly proud to be your champion in government. It’s also the reason, as I said at the start of my speech, that I am totally committed to partnership working. You have a minister who is on your side and in your corner. Now, does that mean that we will always agree on every last dot and comma of shipping policy? Of course it doesn’t. But I know that we stand on common ground and share a common cause. And that’s why I also know that, as well as having a history of which it can be proud, Britain’s shipping industry also has a future of which it can be confident. So I thank you for your hospitality, I thank you for listening and I look forward to working with you all in the months and years ahead.