The importance of Britain's maritime pilots

Sea trade is set to grow, and the UK's maritime pilots will help secure that growth.

Robert Goodwill MP


Good morning.

It is a pleasure to join you on this historic ship, whose role in the North Atlantic convoys reminds us of how seafarers have served our country in the past.

As some of you may know, I am the proud owner of a historic vessel myself.

The MV Coronia - one of the little ships that saw service at Dunkirk.

She rescued 900 men that day, making 3 runs to and from the French beaches.

And today she works the Yorkshire coast offering short cruises to the people of Scarborough.

But just as importantly, she gives me a direct stake in our maritime sector.

So this morning I want share some of my hopes for our industry.

But first, let us remember the things that already make British maritime great.

Our world leading maritime business services.

Our prestigious flag.

Our skilled workforce.

Our competitive tax regime.

And our safe, efficient and successful ports, in which our pilots play the central role.

In conditions like these, our maritime sector should grow and thrive.

The opportunity of world trade

For centuries, sea trade has defined our way of life on this island, and in recent times it has helped lift millions out of poverty around the world.

Today, over 80% of global trade is moved by sea.

And by 2030, sea trade is predicted to double.

With trade so reliant on the maritime sector, our challenge is a good one.

How do we prepare for this growth?

That was the question we asked when we commissioned the ‘Maritime Growth Study’ a year ago.

When it was published in September, the report made some important recommendations; such as that we need to strengthen leadership, promote the industry, and support the workforce.

The government is now carefully considering how we can best put these recommendations into effect.

And ahead of our formal response, change is already under-way - the Maritime and Coastguard Agency is being reformed to support our ambition to see more ships joining the UK Ship Register.

The role of government

But if there is one thing we can learn from maritime history, it is that governments do best when they give the market the freedom to do its job.

We must guard against protectionism, and overzealous regulation.

We must promote competition, while doing what is necessary to ensure our seafarers are well trained, and enjoy a safe environment in which to work.

And for that, we must work together.

I commend the guidance your Association has developed, with North P&I Club insurance, on the exchange of information that takes place every time a pilot boards a ship.

And I am glad that representatives from ports and shipping, including Captain Don Cockrill, the Association’s Chairman, are reviewing the ‘Port Marine Safety Code’ and its ‘guide to good practice’ to make sure the code and the guide are as clear and as effective as possible.

I agree with Captain Cockrill’s suggestion that the new version of the code must include advice on resolving maritime disagreements.

Maritime skills

And as global sea trade grows, we need more seafarers; Deck Officers, Engineering Officers, Chief Mates and Masters, many of whom may develop their careers as the pilots of tomorrow.

So I am excited about the UK Global Maritime Knowledge Hub that will be sited at Wirral Waters.

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 - and it will grow the UK’s Maritime skills base.

I’m also delighted that Associated British Ports is inviting applications for its Marine Pilotage apprenticeship programme.

And by the work of Port Skills and Safety to develop a marine pilot certificate to help ports and pilots record their training and skills.

These are vital investments in training for this critical role on which our ports depend.

Meanwhile, through the £15 million support for maritime training fund, this government continues to invest in training for officers and ratings.

The fund contributes significantly towards the cost of Merchant Navy training, as well as supporting existing seafarers who seek to qualify as officers.

International regulation

But no speech on shipping would be complete without touching on the international nature of the sector.

The world needs international shipping, and that means governments must work together.

Radically different rules for different parts of the world rarely make sense.

Rival regulatory regimes tend to increase cost and inefficiency.

So we must ensure that in the years ahead we support effective international law.

And I believe that the International Maritime Organization is the right forum for those efforts.

And while action from regional bodies to open world markets and support free trade should be welcomed, we must always seek global action to produce a level playing field and avoid the distortions of regionally derived rules.


So, in conclusion.

In recent decades, the maritime sector has shown its spirit of innovation and enterprise.

We will depend on that spirit in coming decades, too.

Governments can play their part, but they can never exceed the ingenuity of those who work in the industry - on land or sea or both - to deliver safety, prosperity and opportunity for us all.

Thank you.

Published 4 November 2015