I’m delighted to be here this afternoon (12 September 2013).
And thanks for inviting me to speak to you.
I know it has been a packed programme today (12 September 2013).
Including, some energetic ‘Question Time’ style debate on what makes a First Class Maritime Centre. And I know you’ll be looking forward to sessions this afternoon on maritime security.
I hope you are finding today’s (12 September 2013) discussion informative and enjoyable.
It’s certainly wonderful to see so many of you here in London – the epicentre of world trade, shipping and maritime services - during this important week.
It is a rare chance to celebrate everything we have to offer the world maritime industry in the UK. And particularly here in London. Although, we could just have easily called this UK Maritime Week.
Vibrant past and present
As an island nation, we have a long maritime tradition…
From our Royal Navy, maritime explorers, ancient docks, generations of merchant seamen, our historic maritime universities, to the many museums which record our shipping history…
And London is at the very heart of that tradition.
The winding artery of the Thames running through the metropolis is a constant reminder that shipping has been London’s lifeblood for centuries…
Something that was highlighted during the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations last year.
But shipping is not just part of our past. It is a vibrant and dynamic part of our present and our future…
Worth up to £14 billion a year to our economy…
And steadily growing - despite challenges facing businesses here and abroad.
95% of goods by volume entering and leaving this country are handled by our ports.
Gross tonnage has more than trebled on the UK shipping register over the past decade.
The maritime sector provides employment for around a quarter of a million people.
It is an engine for growth, and London drives that engine.
The City itself remains the largest maritime centre in the world for professional, business and financial services.
Our business-friendly tax regime has attracted world-leading maritime law, arbitration, insurance, classification, ship broking and financial services.
We have a large pool of talented and skilled maritime professionals…
More than 10,000 highly trained experts working across all disciplines…
And we are truly an international city.
London is the bridge between Europe, America and Asia.
Our central time zone enables business to be done on both sides of the world on the same working day.
London is also the proud home of the International Maritime Organization. It gives us unparalleled access to key decision makers and a strong presence during international negotiations.
Put simply, London is a great place to do business.
But we know that London is not alone in this.
Shipping is a competitive industry.
Like every successful industry, it thrives on healthy competition.
And we are increasingly seeing other countries and cities compete with London.
This is to be welcomed.
Because it means the UK can’t stand still.
We must evolve and grow if we are to remain at the forefront of maritime services.
As Shipping Minister, my priority – with the rest of government – is to make sure that the engine continues to run smoothly.
The UK is reducing regulation, delivering the right conditions for growth and prosperity and is the most competitive place to do business.
So that organisations all over the world continue to choose the UK for their maritime services.
What we’re doing
As part of our support and commitment to the sector we have one of the first tonnage tax regimes.
This recognises the industry’s need for certainty on taxation – to help businesses plan for the future.
Ours is the first scheme that builds in a training commitment, which is pumping fresh blood into the sector each year.
The £12 million annual budget for the scheme – called SMarT – saw over 700 new officer trainees starting last year.
And I’m delighted that we have been able to announce this week that we are making available up to an additional £3 million a year of SMarT funding up to March 2016. That’s enough to fund an extra 200 trainees a year.
We also support apprenticeships. Training a new generation of ambitious people to become the skilled and dedicated seafarers and professionals of the future.
We are cutting red tape. Helping business focus on the things that really matter, without compromising safety or the environment.
We are tackling criminal activity at sea. The Royal Navy’s efforts to patrol potential hotspots are protecting the world-wide flows of energy and resources.
And we continue to place great importance on the security at ports and on board ships. Keeping cargo, passengers, crews, and the people who work and live in port areas safe.
All this goes hand in hand with wider fiscal and regulatory stability, which helps attract business investment to the UK.
Another way we can make maritime successful is through great access to and from our ports, and delivering quality infrastructure around our country.
Key to maintaining our competitive position is our programme of investment across the transport network.
We are embarking on the biggest upgrade of our road network for half a century - trebling funding for major road schemes and building 52 major road projects by 2020 to 2021.
We are delivering the biggest modernisation of our rail network since the Victorian era, including 850 miles of electrification.
We’re committed to a new national high speed rail system, linking 8 out of 10 of our largest cities and bringing two thirds of the population of northern England within 2 hours of London.
And we are taking action to boost our already excellent access to our major ports.
Through Port developments including London Gateway, Felixstowe, Liverpool and Southampton – we are investing in the road and rail networks that connect airports and sea ports. We are working together with the private sector to deliver the vital connectivity which customers and businesses today demand.
But government can only do so much.
The key strength of the maritime sector is its people, and their commitment to work with us to deliver excellence and growth.
I value the fact that we have such strong and friendly relations, and such constructive engagement with our industry and union partners. Including regular ministerial round table discussions.
Together, we have developed strategic partnership plans for both the shipping and ports sectors, as well the Open for maritime business booklet – all of which we have published this week.
These demonstrate a commitment to work in partnership to deliver conditions in which the UK’s maritime sector can thrive. For as the global economy grows, shipping and ports must grow too.
The partnership plans are just the first step, and we will continue to work with industry to build on these plans for the future. I look forward to that.
I am proud to stand here today (12 September 2013) as the UK’s Shipping Minister.
I see my job – and the job of the UK government - to support today’s maritime sector, so it can modernise, grow, and flourish in changing times.
And I will take every opportunity to promote London as the best place in the world today to do maritime business.
Because London not only has an unrivalled track record as a maritime centre… both historic and I believe in the future.
It also offers a comprehensive range of services, skills and support for the modern shipping industry.
That’s why it has been so resilient to the global downturn.
That’s why the city is looking to the future with confidence.
And that’s why we’re proud to be supporting London International Shipping Week.
So thank you for being part of it.
I hope you enjoy the rest of your visit.
And thank you for listening.