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UK sets out strategy for maritime sector to 2050

Government launches strategy document containing 189 short, medium and long-term proposals, including developing technology, people and infrastructure

While Brexit is notably absent from the strategy document, headline proposals set out an ambitious bid to develop UK maritime as a global leader in technology

THE UK government will today set out its ambition to become a global maritime technology hub as part of its 30-year strategy to develop the country’s maritime sector.

The new ‘Maritime 2050’ strategy, unveiled following a year-long consultation which included the input of an appointed panel of industry experts, sets out a broad range of short, medium and long-term proposals, initiatives and recommendations.

The executive summary contains 189 individual recommendations ranging from pledges of support in specific areas to the development of brand new legislation.

Headline pledges include the establishment of an innovation hub at a UK port by 2030, a possible new safety body, a fully-digital UK Ship Register by 2025 and a raft of measures to promote training and skills development within the sector.

The paper also recommends leveraging on the UK’s competitive advantages by boosting cooperation between the government and industry to maintain and enhance the attractiveness of regional maritime clusters while promoting London as a global maritime professional services cluster.

“This strategy is a clear message to the world — we will continue to be a leading maritime nation for the next 30 years and beyond,” transport secretary Chris Grayling said. “We will be at the forefront of emerging technology and seafarer training and will capitalise on selling this expertise to companies across the world.”

Maritime brings in £14bn ($18.3bn) to the UK economy as well as providing thousands of jobs, Mr Grayling added.

The UK was encouraged to maximise its leadership role within the International Maritime Organization.

On the regulatory side the paper sets out plans to develop a new Merchant Shipping Act, but shipping businesses will likely be more intrigued by the non-committal promise to review secondary regulations and “explore opportunities to reduce burdens to business”.

Meanwhile on the trade front, a liberalised trading regime that delivers the greatest benefit for the maritime sector would be promoted and in line with this, the case for free ports in the UK would be considered in consultation with the ports and the manufacturing industry.

While the strategic goals cover most aspects of the maritime sector from infrastructure to trade and training development, a key theme in the document is the development of the UK as “a pre-eminent global test bed of emerging technology”.

The strategy paper states that the UK will legislate for a domestic framework for autonomous vessels to attract international business and allow testing in UK’s territorial waters. The paper also commits the government to working “in partnership with the British banking sector to encourage the provision of finance towards zero emission shipping technology development and manufacturing”.

A notable absence from the paper is any substantive mention of post-Brexit maritime strategy.

Beyond repeating the government’s confidence that “the maritime sector will thrive and strengthen, as it harnesses the opportunities that EU exit brings”, the paper makes no direct mention of the Brexit plans.

Nevertheless, the paper comes with ringing endorsements from the expert panel of industry leaders who were drafted in last year to advise the Department for Transport on the publication of this strategy.

“For the first time the maritime sector has a real long-term strategy — setting out what government and industry will do to position the UK as the world’s leading maritime nation over the coming decades in an increasingly competitive global context,” said Maritime UK chairman Harry Theochari.

“The task of turning these ambitious recommendations into reality rests on the strength of partnership between industry and government. Industry is committed to delivery,” he said.

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