I’ve just been lucky enough to enjoy the tremendous view from the top of one of the cranes.
While I’d read all about London Gateway before I arrived this morning there’s nothing quite like seeing it from 128 metres high in the air. The sheer scale is incredibly impressive. What was a derelict wasteland has been transformed into a modern transport hub that will provide jobs for thousands of people.
I’m delighted to have been invited and to have the opportunity to see the progress you’ve made for myself.
As the minister responsible for Shipping and Ports in the UK, I’d like to say just a few words about why we want to see thriving ports and what we’re doing to help you make that happen.
As you know better than most, Britain is an island nation and a trading nation.
As 95% of our trade travels by sea our ports are a vital artery for the nation’s prosperity.
Without you we wouldn’t have much of the raw materials needed by our exporters, the fuel we need to keep the lights on or the food on our supermarket shelves.
The good news is that after the storm caused by the financial crisis the economy is growing and unemployment is falling. And that growth is feeding demand for freight traffic. The latest statistics show the volume of freight moving through our ports is increasing. Both imports and exports are growing and total world container traffic increased by 5% last year.
That growth is set to continue. The OECD has estimated that worldwide port handling of maritime containers could quadruple by 2030 and we expect very substantial growth here too.
So while the prospects are good, we all know that rebalancing the economy isn’t going to be smooth sailing. It will take hard work. As a country, we need to make more and we need to export more.
I am delighted that there is huge investment going into our ports industry here at London Gateway and also at Felixstowe and Southampton.
To be able to compete, we need efficient, modern logistics infrastructure like London Gateway. So this port is nothing less than a £1.5 billion, long term investment in the success of Britain’s economy. But while I’ve seen today some of the newest, largest and most advanced technology around it’s ultimately the people who will be the most important ingredient in its success.
It’s your skills and talent that will make the difference.
This is an exciting time. You’re involved in an industry that’s growing and innovating. We want everyone to know that there’s the opportunity to have a great career in maritime.
That’s why we are providing £15 million for the Support for Maritime Training Programme. And we are backing the new maritime apprenticeships framework - that includes a port operations apprenticeship.
By investing in maritime skills, we are making an investment that will help this country compete on a global scale for years to come.
To sum up, this port is an example of Britain at its best.
At the cutting edge of technology, with a vision for growth and a confidence that we can successfully compete on the global stage.
It is a long term investment in our people and in our prosperity. That will benefit this country for decades to come.
The UK is fantastically well placed to seize the opportunities for growth and attract the largest vessels. And by making us more attractive to world markets, the ports industry will help create jobs, increase exports and boost the economy.
So, I’d like to thank you for inviting me here today and thank you for listening.