Thank you for inviting me to speak here tonight at the Mersey Maritime Industry Awards, celebrating the fantastic achievements across the maritime industry in the Liverpool City region.
I’ve had a very informative visit here in the Liverpool City region today. It was here 300 years ago that 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. So where better for me to start my day today than at the Port of Liverpool to visit Liverpool 2….
A place well known for its history of innovation.
Liverpool has long been established as the country’s primary centre for transatlantic movement of goods. The opportunities there continue to develop as US ports and the Panamá Canal itself increase their own capacity for larger box ships.
And I know the ambition is strong also to attract ships from Asia and elsewhere, taking advantage of proximity to north-west markets and distribution centres.
We’re seeing some last minute delays, but this will be a facility well worth the wait and complementing other post-Panamax developments, meaning the UK is superbly placed to facilitate growth in trade with all our international partners.
That in turn feeds into the Northern Powerhouse, and work is well underway on a freight and logistics strategy for the north. We have worked with Transport for the North to make sure that freight through ports such as Liverpool has the prominent billing it needs, despite the understandably strong focus on passenger transport.
I was most excited to see the progress being made at the Maritime Knowledge Hub today. It creates great potential for the growth of the UK’s maritime skills base.
With sea trade expected to grow significantly, the need for a highly skilled workforce has never been greater.
The Hub is a new addition to the UK’s maritime training institutions providing world-class research and respected qualifications.
Next week is National Apprenticeships Week and the maritime sector is leading the way in shaping the future of apprenticeships through the maritime trailblazer.
It is critically important that the maritime industry continues to attract and train the next generation of seafarers and mariners in order to sustain its future. That is why government continues to play its part by investing in the training of UK officers and ratings through our £15 million Support for Maritime Training (SMarT) fund.
Our commitment to maritime is shown through our acceptance of all the recommendations made to government coming out of the Maritime growth study last year.
They won’t necessarily be easy to implement. But of course this a partnership. We have to work closely together – government and industry. And together we will see results.
We have already set up a Ministerial Working Group and have taken action so that the Maritime and Coastguard Agency have appointed a commercial director to lead the shipping register and deliver improvements in service.
Things are already moving in the right direction.
The growth study highlighted the size and diversity of the UK’s maritime sector – ports, shipping, business services, training, research, engineering and manufacturing.
The UK has a cluster of maritime industries of global significance and we must consider this interconnected network of businesses as whole.
By ensuring that we, in government, take a strategic approach to all parts of the maritime sector.
And by encouraging greater communication, coordination and cooperative between the many elements of our maritime cluster.
We all understand the importance of trade. Free trade creates jobs; protectionism (although billed as protecting jobs) ultimately destroys them. Free trade operates best with effective and efficient logistics – this is where you guys come in.
I believe the objective of free trade are best served with the UK being part of a reformed EU.
Only, for example, as part of the EU can we land the TTIP deal with the US that would boost transatlantic trade volumes.
We can build on the UK’s strengths, generate sustained growth and compete internationally.