(Original script, may differ from delivered version)
Thank you for inviting me to speak during the second London International Shipping Week.
It’s great that, tonight (9 September 2015), the Liverpool city region is out in force.
It’s not the first time that Liverpool has taught London about shipping.
Three hundred years ago last week, on 31 August 1715, the world’s first enclosed commercial wet dock opened in Liverpool.
Its design meant that for the first time in history, ships could load and unload whatever the state of the tide.
They could be turned around in days, rather than weeks.
And after Herman Melville, the author of Moby Dick, saw the dock in Liverpool, he wrote that:
London was induced to copy after Liverpool… In magnitude, cost, and durability, the docks of Liverpool surpass all others in the world.
Thanks to Liverpool’s new system, by the beginning of the 19th century nearly 10% of the world’s trade passed through the city.
Shipping is still big business in Liverpool, and it continues to grow, as the Port of Liverpool is about to open a new, £300 million terminal to prepare for increasing volumes of freight to pass over its wharves
Global seaborne trade predicted to double in the next 20 years.
And that is why our ports are investing now.
Already, of the top 5 English ports by tonnage, 3 are in the north, including Liverpool.
These northern ports are vital for handling our car exports.
As well as heavy materials such as steel.
And then there’s the ground-breaking Wirral Waters scheme; the biggest regeneration scheme in the UK.
So while the modern Port of Liverpool is receiving investment, the old maritime land is being regenerated.
But as the transport minister with responsibility for skills, I am most excited about the UK Global Maritime Knowledge Hub which will be hosted at Wirral Waters.
The announcement creates great potential for the growth of the UK’s maritime skills base
With sea trade expected grow significantly, the need for a highly skilled workforce has never been greater.
We need more seafarers, naval engineers and architects, ship-brokers and even maritime accountants and lawyers if the UK is to remain the world’s premier maritime centre.
The hub is a new addition to the UK’s maritime training institutions, of which we already have the greatest concentration in Europe doing world-class research and providing respected qualifications.
Liverpool John Moores University has long led the way, as one of the first dedicated maritime training establishments in the UK.
And it will continue to do so with its role in the Maritime Knowledge Hub, just as the government continues to do its part by investing in training for officers and ratings through the £15 million Support for maritime training fund.
The fund contributes significantly towards the cost of Merchant Navy training, as well as supporting existing seafarers who seek to qualify as officers.
The fact that there are representatives here of so many different organisations is proof of how a successful port is an integral part of a regional economy.
The Port of Liverpool supports jobs, businesses and growth right across the north of England.
And in return, economic growth across the north of England directly benefits the Port of Liverpool.
That is why this government’s plan to create a Northern Powerhouse is so important.
In the next few years, we will invest £13 billion in northern transport.
That includes schemes to improve road access to our ports at Liverpool and the Humber.
New franchises will see modern trains and extra capacity on the Northern and Transpennine rail routes serving Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle.
We have created Transport for the North to represent the whole region.
Its aim is to transform connectivity between our great northern cities, and allow the north to match the productivity levels of the south east.
We are developing a ‘Freight and logistics strategy’ for the north as well.
To improve the capacity and reliability of northern freight and logistics.
Then looking even further ahead, we will build HS2, bridging the gap between north and south, and freeing up existing lines which could be used for freight.
So in conclusion, as the new container terminal opens in the Port of Liverpool this year, perfectly timed to coincide with the widening of the Panama Canal, and exactly 3 centuries after that revolutionary wet dock opened for business, maritime Liverpool still has much to look forward to.
The driving force of a revitalised northern economy, and the UK’s manufacturing gateway.