Good evening everyone.
Welcome to this maritime reception.
So many leaders from the maritime sector.
And, I see, a number of my parliamentary colleagues are here because you are as proud as I am of our work.
But I am also particularly pleased to see here the ambassadors and representatives from several countries.
So many of our friends, who can see for themselves the importance we place on our maritime businesses and the crucial role we know they will play in our economic future.
The sea and those who work on it and for it contribute about £13.5 billion to our economy in its own right and employs over 110,000 people.
Significant to the economy.
Important to what we are, who we are, as a people.
An island race.
A maritime nation.
That significance is captured within the booklet ‘The UK is a world class maritime centre’ which you will already have seen.
It is both an expression of the UK maritime offer and the start of a journey.
A journey towards the next major staging post in the coming year, the flagship event that is London International Shipping Week 2017.
We have achieved much since the publication of the Maritime Growth Study which I began when I was Shipping Minister the first time.
We have put in place a solid set of structures within government including a successful ministerial working group based on constructive engagement with the industry.
I am encouraged by the way that industry has come together following the publication of the study in September 2015.
The efforts from across the whole industry have been impressive.
Bringing together so many organisational bodies.
Often with very different objectives.
Many of which can sometimes seem contradictory.
Yet we are working under one promotional umbrella to address all the major issues affecting the sector.
Maritime UK is becoming the voice of the UK maritime sector.
In that spirit can I offer your thanks and mine to David as Chairman for his continued hard work in this challenging role.
We are in the right place, at the forefront of the efforts to secure the best deal for the UK as we leave the EU.
However as Benjamin Disraeli so eloquently put it.
The secret of success is constancy to purpose.
Constancy means we cannot afford to relax, we must make the best of every opportunity.
Constancy means we must commit to working together both now and right up to the time when the UK exits the European Union and long beyond.
Constancy means we must be absolutely confident that the world knows that we are ready to grasp these opportunities.
Our purpose is clear - for Britain maritime sector to be as great as it can be – greater than we imagined possible over recent years.
What might that mean?
Well I am going to present you with a challenge to identify the key trade and export opportunities and what you think you need from this government to make them happen.
Of course the gateway for our exports is through its ports and what we buy comes that way too.
So it’s not enough to get goods off the ships, we have to get them to where they are needed.
So the Department for Transport is committed to improving the UK’s transport network through its £14 billion Road Investment Strategy.
And spending over £40 billion on maintenance and improvement of the rail network.
As well as considering what the possibilities might be for improving connectivity to those ports.
We also need to think about the essential contribution made by those who work within the sector.
I have decided that the time is right to conduct an assessment of where we are on the recommendations relating to all aspects of the Maritime Growth Study.
I want to make it quite clear that this is not a case of redoing work that’s already been done.
I always envisaged the study as a ‘living document’ a ‘starting gate’ not a ‘finishing line’.
It is right in any event to look again at the recommendations from the study a year or so on to be sure that we had our priorities right.
Certainly, leaving the EU obliges us to consider those priorities afresh.
I want you all to be involved in that assessment process.
Inserted in the booklet before you is a page inviting you to highlight what you see as future priorities to help inform my assessment.
So please give me the benefit of your expertise.
One of the 4 major themes from the study is ‘skills’.
The UK rightly prides itself on producing many of the best-trained officers and crew serving on ships around the world.
As well as those with expertise in areas such as law, insurance, finance and the logistical skills for managing ships and ports.
An incredible skills base that supports the whole maritime sector.
Our pride in all we are and confidence in all we can be must be measured against increasing competition we face, especially from the far east.
To develop the right strategies and support to maintain and enhance our existing reputation for high quality.
The government currently supports maritime training through the £15 million support for maritime training budget.
This covers just over a third of the cost.
We are reviewing the provision of that support and are talking to you in the maritime industry about options.
You will already know that the government is also committed to increasing the quality and quantity of apprenticeships,
3 million apprenticeship starts by 2020.
The maritime sector has a very strong record on apprenticeships, and I’m delighted to see new opportunities being developed.
I want to see the number of trainees – both ratings and officers – increase.
I am open to exploring innovative options at how we do this when it comes to supporting trainees in the further development of their careers.
And let us be clear, I want to be sure that we are looking across the board at the skills and opportunities our sector needs.
From those working on inland waterways, to those working in our Ports and onboard ships.
We have to think not just of opportunities at sea but ensuring that we make best use of that skills and experience on shore.
As you all know, half the recommendations from the study relate to skills in one form or another.
But what are the new factors we should be considering?
Does the strategy still strike the right balance?
As a former Minister for Further Education and Apprenticeships, skills have long been close to my heart.
Identifying and nurturing the talent of tomorrow and ensuring they have the opportunities they need.
Maintaining and enhancing our reputation for a world-class skilled maritime workforce.
And let no one be in any doubt that I I will be looking at government leadership, industry leadership and marketing with exactly the same level of thoroughness.
Finally, I want to make an important announcement.
You will of course be aware that one of the conclusions from the Maritime Growth Study was that a strong ‘flag’ is a vital component of the support we need to meet our shared objective of growing the maritime sector in the UK.
The work that the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has already done and continues to do to transform itself in general and the UK Ship Register in particular has achieved much.
The MCA and the Ship Register have always been about delivering a quality product.
Nonetheless, to grow the register we need to adopt a more commercial approach.
And having concluded that we will need the services of those with the expertise and experience to help us take this forward.
We have done rather well in that effort so far.
Many of you will know already that Michael Parker, a former Chair of CMA CGM has agreed to join the MCA as Non-Executive Chair.
To drive a commercial agenda across the whole MCA.
I am happy to tell you that we will hear from Michael shortly.
Now it gives me equal pleasure to announce the appointment of Doug Barrow.
Who most of you will know from his role as Chief Executive with Maritime London.
As the new Director responsible for the UK Ship Register, with a remit to continue the work already begun in establishing the register as a separate directorate within the MCA.
And to develop a commercial and customer-focused culture that builds on recent growth.
Britain has an extraordinary maritime history.
So many triumphs, so strong.
And we have so many strengths today.
A strong flag.
Competitive maritime services.
We have clear and shared commitment to work together to do more, to be still greater.
To broadcast the UK maritime’s successes and significance.
To promote our maritime sector to the rest of the world.
A place that is open for business.
To recognise, to celebrate our strengths and build on them.
A continuing competitive advantage.
To identify and overcome the barriers to success.
Finding new ways to attract maritime businesses to the UK’s shores, and continuing to support the best and the brightest reach their potential in their maritime careers.
That is what we all want.
A nation that can be proud of our maritime sector.
Proud of the glory of our maritime past.
Of what was then.
Still more proud of what we can be in the future.
Of what we will be then.
When all know what we here are sure of.
That sure and skilled.
Certain and ambitious.
We will reach beyond our doubts.
Stretch further than our hopes.
Do our best.
Be the best.