Ladies and gentlemen.
I’m delighted to welcome you to London…
And to the magnificent setting of Lancaster House…
For tonight’s reception, which marks the start of London International Shipping Week.
We are proud to be hosting this inaugural event for the world’s maritime community.
And it’s wonderful to see so many of you here tonight. And I’m delighted that John Prescott is here, who started his career at sea.
We hear a lot about the global economy these days…
And the global reach of modern industries…
As if they are something new.
Well, shipping was the original global business.
The pioneering blueprint for everything that followed.
Shipping created the global economy, centuries before the term was coined.
And it remains among the most powerful drivers of growth and prosperity in the 21st century.
And it is this relationship between shipping and growth that makes this week so important.
That’s why we’ve given it the theme of “propelling world trade”.
Above all, London International Shipping Week is about opportunity.
An opportunity to do business.
An opportunity for leaders across industry and government to forge new relationships and plan for the future.
And, after several tough years, an opportunity for us to put global shipping on a path to sustained recovery.
We believe the UK has a good story to tell our international maritime partners.
Our shipping sector has demonstrated real resilience, despite the global economic downturn.
With a near trebling of gross tonnage on the UK register over the past decade, shipping remains a hugely important engine for growth….
Worth up to £14 billion a year to our economy.
Our quality flag, attractive tax regime, strong and competitive ports, and stable regulatory system make the UK an ideal place to do business.
London is the largest centre in the world for professional, business and financial maritime services.
And despite the recession, employment in UK shipping has grown from 73,000 jobs in 2004 to 146,000 in 2011.
But this week is about the future of world shipping.
How we can work to boost international sea-going trade.
How we can tackle global industry challenges like oversupply.
How partnerships can drive growth across different markets.
And how – in a changing world – we can make shipping more efficient, more competitive, and ultimately more profitable.
As the market changes, the industry must change.
And so must the strategic relationship between industry and government.
It’s something my fellow ministers and I take very seriously here in the UK. Marked by the international roundtable at 10 Downing Street yesterday with industry leaders, which was attended by the Prime Minister.
It is of critical importance that governments appreciate the pivotal contribution of shipping to our modern world.
That is why you’ll see Stephen Hammond, who has direct responsibility for maritime issues, Michael Fallon and other ministers from many different departments here this evening and taking part in events this week.
We already play a prominent role in areas like maritime training and I was delighted to announce 25% extra funding for maritime training yesterday.
Our funding has helped UK officer numbers double between 1998 and 2011.
But close co-operation on issues that affect growth are just as crucial.
And my department is working with Maritime UK on shipping and ports strategic partnership.
The development of these strategic partnership plans will allow us to maximise opportunities for investment and growth, fuelling a stronger economy.
By working together, we are stronger.
And that applies internationally, just as it does on a national level.
Whether keeping shipping lanes safe, or reducing red tape, it’s vital that we all work closely together.
That’s why London values its position as host country for the IMO so highly.
Through all our policies, we remain committed to the view that shipping is an international industry that should be addressed at an international level through the IMO.
Now, my golden rule when speaking is ‘exhaust neither the subject nor the audience’.
In a moment you’ll be hearing from Jim Stewart, the chair of Maritime UK. So I’d just like to finish by thanking you all for supporting London International Shipping Week.
We hope that you find the many different events and functions interesting and enjoyable…
So that you finish the week better informed, better connected, and better prepared for the challenges ahead.