Good afternoon, and welcome to the splendour of the Locarno Room.
This venue was named after a set of international treaties, which were initialled in Locarno in Switzerland in October 1925, but then formally signed here in London in the following December.
So it is fitting that we should gather here during London International Shipping Week to tell you about the importance of the UK Ship Register.
And in particular the changes we have planned to make the UK Ship Register more attractive, so that it rightly becomes the ship register of choice for quality owners and operators.
We are just about past the middle point of the week and many of you may already have attended other events.
If so, you will by now be familiar I hope with a key message from this government.
Which is our relentless commitment to economic growth throughout the maritime and marine sectors.
Those sectors already contribute at least £11.8 billion annually to the UK economy.
Earlier this week we published the Maritime Growth Study, under the leadership of Lord Mountevans.
The study provides a compelling analysis of the industry and how a successful, commercially focused, ship register can support the growth of our maritime sector.
We support the broad thrust of its findings, and while we’ll respond fully once we have considered the details, change is already underway.
And certainly, the UK Ship Register is very much at the heart of our growth plans.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency is already driving change to support our ambitions to improve the UK Ship Register.
The agency’s track record for doing things differently is good.
The MCA modernised the way that Her Majesty’s Coastguard coordinates search and rescue, delivering a more resilient, joined-up national network, with more rewarding jobs for our brilliant cadre of Coastguard Officers.
The MCA is delivering £1.6 billion investment in the new harmonised search and rescue helicopter service with modern airframes.
And the MCA recognised the need to change to make the UK Ship Register more attractive and responsive to its customers.
Sir Alan Massey and his team deserve great credit for establishing a panel of industry leaders and experts to examine how the service could improve.
I am delighted that we have Robin Mortimer, Chief Executive of the Port of London Authority, here today.
Sir Robin chaired the UK Ship Register Advisory Panel, as well as sitting on the Maritime Growth Study industry advisory group.
He will speak about the findings from this independent review shortly.
Alan Massey will then tell you about the changes underway and planned, highlighting what the UK flag has to offer.
But first I want to emphasise the importance of quality.
The size of the merchant fleet is often used to assess the success of a flag state.
Be in no doubt that we want to see more ships joining the UK Ship Register.
But equally I want to assure everyone that we will grow our flag while maintaining quality.
Those factors are not mutually exclusive – we can, and we will, have both.
The safety of ships, seafarers, passengers and cargoes is our top priority and is non-negotiable.
The UK Ship Register has a proud record as one of the best performing flags in the major Port State Control regimes.
It has a reputation for maintaining the highest international standards.
And we will do nothing that will threaten that reputation.
We can become more internationally competitive, without compromising on safety.
The best ship operators want to trade safely.
They invest money, time and energy into safe operations.
They know that the financial and reputational cost of an accident is just too great to contemplate.
And they know the assurance and sense of pride that comes with flying the Red Ensign and the backing of the UK Ship Register.
I would now like to invite Robin Mortimer to say a few words about the work and recommendations of the Advisory Panel.