Written statement to Parliament

Government response to maritime growth study

Explains progress being made following publication of the 'Maritime growth study: keeping the UK competitive in a global market' report.

In November 2014, the Department for Transport launched a comprehensive study, chaired by Lord Jeffrey Mountevans, now Lord Mayor of the City of London, into maintaining the UK’s status as a world-leading maritime centre. The ‘Maritime growth study: keeping the UK competitive in a global market’ was published on 7 September 2015, the opening day of London International Shipping Week 2015, with a commitment from government to formally respond to the report by the end of the year.

The last such review took place nearly 2 decades ago and the global economic landscape has changed significantly since then. However, one constant has been the continuing contribution of UK maritime and marine industries to our economy and in keeping seaborne trade moving worldwide. The study highlights that this has been achieved through a highly advanced, world-class maritime cluster spread across the nation that attracts investment and exports services worldwide. The sector’s direct economic contribution is at least £11 billion, while directly supporting at least 113,000 jobs and 6,600 businesses. The UK is truly a ‘one-stop-shop’ for the global maritime market, but the study concludes that there is still much more that it can achieve.

The report recognises that other maritime centres in Europe and the Far East are experiencing rapid growth and seeking to replicate our success. Government and industry must therefore work together to reinforce the UK’s role in the global market and put our nation in the best possible position to exploit the expected doubling in world sea trade by 2030. A successful maritime sector will support the government’s commitment to enhancing domestic productivity, rebalancing the UK economy, increasing exports and raising our global status.

The study involved extensive engagement and independent research to inform and shape its conclusions and recommendations. The process also benefitted from the scrutiny and support of an industry advisory group chaired by Michael Parker, Chairman of the UK arm of global shipping company, CMA-CGM, and comprising senior business leaders from across the sector.

The report encompasses Lord Mountevans’ recommendations for government and industry, focusing on 4 themes in particular; government leadership, industry leadership, the need for a skilled workforce and the opportunities for marketing maritime UK. The government welcomes his findings and will take forward the recommendations in all 4 of these areas, partnering with and involving industry as required.

Significant progress is already being made. A new ministerial working group for maritime growth has been established to drive growth and tackle issues impacting the sector. The working group, including representatives from industry, met for the first time last month to discuss items on maritime inward investment and export growth, as well as the opportunities presented by the government’s proposed reform of apprenticeships. The working group will be supported by a committee that will bring together senior officials from key departments with an interest in maritime in the New Year to identify what further action is required.

Officials will shortly begin the process of updating the government’s assessment of the seafarer requirement in the UK maritime sector so we have the most up-to-date picture of supply and demand. This will ultimately inform the chair’s recommended review of our support for maritime training (SMarT) scheme to ensure it remains fit for purpose.

A key focus of the study was the role played by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) administered UK Ship Register. The register has now seen nearly 12 months of modest, but continuous growth in gross tonnage. However, we will not be complacent about this success and fully support Lord Mountevans’ ambitions for the register, which were informed by evidence from the independent UK Ship Register advisory panel. In addition to the agency’s existing plans for creating a more efficient, flexible and customer-focused survey and inspection function, I am pleased to be able to announce the appointment of Simon Barham as Director of the UK Ship Register. Simon brings a wealth of commercial shipping experience to the role and will begin the process of making the Register more independent from the MCA’s regulatory functions when he starts in 2016. These improvements are being implemented against the backdrop of longer term work by the department exploring the scope for more significant reform of relevant MCA services, in particular the UK Ship Register.

While the specific recommendations for industry are for them to consider and respond to, the outcomes being sought, including greater coordination to promote the sector as a whole, are vital to achieving the chair’s vision for maritime. The government is happy to support industry in this endeavour.

I am grateful to Lord Mountevans for his chairmanship of the project. His leadership and experience have helped to produce a compelling report on a sophisticated sector consisting of multiple markets and industries. He played an important role in successfully corralling the views of an expansive and diverse industry with varying interests. It is now for government and industry to work in partnership to lever the findings from the study and keep the UK maritime sector at the forefront of the global market.

The report, Maritime growth study: keeping the UK competitive in a global market can be found on GOV.UK and copies were made available in the libraries of the House on its publication in September.