I am delighted to have been given the opportunity to address the Royal Yachting Association at the Boat Show today (13 January 2016).
The Royal Yachting Association is renowned the world over for its regard for maritime safety and its determination to maintain seafaring standards, while this year’s boat show has the distinction of being the third occasion in 4 months that the eyes of the maritime world have been on London.
Last September saw the second ever London International Shipping Week.
It was a landmark event for the shipping industry, for the UK, and for every one of the dozens of maritime nations that participated.
London International Shipping Week was also the week that Lord Mountevans’s seminal Maritime growth study was published.
It was the first comprehensive review of UK’s maritime sector in 20 years.
And I know the association and many others here made important contributions to the maritime growth study, so this is a great opportunity to give you an update.
One thing the maritime growth study made very clear was the importance of the marine and maritime sectors to the UK.
They directly contribute at least £11 billion a year to the economy, while supporting over 113,000 jobs and six and a half thousand businesses.
Nonetheless, the study concluded that there is still much we can achieve.
World sea trade is expected to double by the year 2030, and maritime centres in Europe and the Far East are undergoing rapid growth as they seek to emulate our historic success.
So the government and the maritime industry must work together to strengthen the UK’s position in an ever-more-competitive global market.
With that in mind, on 16 December 2015 I published the government’s formal response to the maritime growth study.
We agreed to accept its findings, and I am pleased to report today some of the changes that are now underway.
First, we formed, and in November held the first meeting of, a new Ministerial Working Group for Maritime Growth.
The membership comprises ministers from across government.
Several industry invitees also attended the meeting, including representatives from Maritime UK and the Marine Industries Leadership Council.
We discussed how to get more investment in our maritime industries, how to increase our exports, and how to seize the opportunities presented by apprenticeships.
Next, the government is to review the numbers of British seafarers and the skills our country needs to secure maritime growth.
If necessary, we will look at the levels of support for maritime training funding to ensure it remains fit for purpose.
And we are also responding to Lord Mountevans’s recommendations concerning the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, and, in particular, its UK Ship Register.
It’s great that, in tonnage terms, the register has had a year of modest growth.
But we want that trend to continue.
So we have appointed Simon Barham to be the MCA’s new director of the UK Ship Register.
Simon will be primarily focused on attracting owners of quality ships to sign up to the UK Flag and working to secure the long-term commercial success of the UK Ship Register. He brings 40 years of maritime experience to the task from a varied career in the industry.
Meanwhile, the MCA is reforming its survey and inspection function to make it more flexible, efficient and customer-focused.
In the longer-term, we will look to build on these changes and continue to make the MCA, and the services it provides, more responsive and commercially focused.
We are exploring what more can be done to ensure that the ship register has the flexibility and capability to compete with the best in the world – making full use of the findings of the maritime growth study and UK Ship Register Advisory Panel.
And we agree with Lord Mountevans that the MCA would benefit from the additional leadership and guidance that could be provided by a non-executive chair, so we are going to recruit someone who can bring the necessary commercial experience to continue these reforms and support the work of MCA.
Altogether there’s a lot happening in response to the maritime growth study.
But the recreational side of the maritime industry is just as important to the UK economy as the more directly commercial side.
The UK has cutting-edge expertise in the design and manufacture of sailing yachts, superyachts, and high-end powerboats.
Anyone requiring further evidence of this need only take a look around this year’s show.
The government is clear that growth in these industries is part-and-parcel of the growth we want to see in the whole maritime sector.
That is why we are so grateful to the association for contributing to the maritime growth study, and for how it has continued to contribute now we are implementing the recommendations.
So in conclusion, I would like to say thank you to the Royal Yachting Association for your support for what we are trying to achieve for the sector.
Thank you for another year of working to support seafarers, sportsmen and women and recreational sailing throughout the UK and beyond.
And thank you for hosting today’s reception.
I trust that 2016 will be another year of success for the association and all its members — whether in sport or in commerce.