Call For More Investment And Training In UK Maritime Sector

A new report by the Transport Committee has recommended that the government puts more investment into maritime technology, workforce development, and greener fuels in order to remain globally competitive. It also calls for more recognition of the contribution the maritime sector makes to the UK economy, which is around £40bn a year. 

The cross-party committee report highlights the importance of the maritime sector to the UK economy, pointing out that about 95% of imported products arrive in the UK via ocean freight. Furthermore, trade volumes are expected to triple over the next thirty years. The maritime sector employs about 185,000 people in the UK.

The Department for Transport (DfT) published a long term strategy for the sector in 2019, titled ‘Maritime 2050.’ However, the new report criticises the lack of detailed and clear action plans that are needed to achieve these 30-year goals. The DfT have said they are currently working on a follow up report to create more ‘policy certainty.’ 

Transport Committee Chair Iain Stewart said: “All the evidence we received about the UK’s maritime sector has shown it is resilient, entrepreneurial, and used to working independently from government.”

He added: “Nonetheless, there is an array of things government should do to support the sector and help it achieve its ambitions to decarbonise and remain a positive force on the world stage and for the UK economy.”

“We commend the Government for being forward thinking in developing the Maritime 2050 strategy, but clarity and focus are needed to refine its muddle of 184 recommendations.” 

The government has recently carried out a consultation into decarbonising the Uk maritime sector and has already launched two initiatives. These include the Clydebank Declaration for Green Shipping Corridors and Operation Zero. Greens shipping corridors are established routes between two or more ports with zero-carbon emissions. 

The government hopes to establish at least six green corridors around the UK by 2025, with several more by 2030. It has also set up the Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition to encourage research and development of greener shipping fuels in the relevant sectors. 

The National Oceanography Centre’s (NOC) Associate Director of NOC Innovations, Huw Gullick, said: “The UK, and the Solent region in particular, is a world leader in maritime autonomy. The sector has benefited in the past from an absence of regulation in testing and scaling up new technologies.”

He added: “ But to now take the industry forward, we need the regulation to catch up and the Committee is right to push the government on this. We have the right technology, and scale can only now be achieved with the regulation that supports this fast-moving sector.”

“The UK can harness first mover advantage to drive autonomy to the next exciting stage in the ocean space.” 

The Transport Committee report called for more effort to level up UK coastal towns and cities to attract more investment and job opportunities. It also called for more targets to grow the UK Ships Register, which has reduced by a third over the last decade. 

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