A maritime manifesto

Maritime UK is the new name for the umbrella body for the maritime services sector, formerly known as One Voice

Old and new at Felixstowe

Jan Kopernicki, Chairman of Maritime UK, outlines the organisation’s priorities

Photo: Hugh Brazier

Maritime UK brings together the shipping, ports and maritime business services sectors in the UK to speak with a single voice on key strategic and practical issues of joint interest. Its intention is to create ‘joined-up’ industry positions between these sectors so that the maritime message can be heard more clearly and given greater weight by legislators and other audiences.

The seven constituent organisations are the Baltic Exchange, the British Ports Association, the Chamber of Shipping, the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers, Maritime London, the Passenger Shipping Association and the UK Major Ports Group. Together, the sectors represented by these organisations contribute over £25 billion to the UK’s annual GDP and support more than 500,000 jobs.

Traditionally the UK’s maritime services have been at the heart of the global maritime community, but strong competition is now emerging from across the globe (for example from Shanghai and Singapore). Added to which, with more than 90% of our trade being moved by sea, it is vital to the UK’s economic recovery that our shipping and ports business is underpinned by a positive and consistent economic and regulatory environment.

This year saw the launch of Maritime UK’s first major policy document, intended to highlight the needs of the maritime cluster in a year that has brought significant political change. The Maritime Manifesto has been widely distributed, including to all MPs, and it focuses on some of the biggest challenges facing the maritime sector today.

A positive and stable commercial environment

First and foremost, as we face uncertain times in world trade and in the shipping markets, the manifesto emphasises that it is more vital than ever that industry and government work together to ensure a positive and stable commercial environment for the maritime sector in the UK.

In practical terms, this means a positive fiscal environment – both nationally and in Europe – for investing in and operating maritime businesses in the UK . This includes the continuation of the tonnage tax for shipping; a favourable business environment for the wider shipping business services of banking, law, insurance and broking; and advantageous conditions for other shipping- related activity, including the UK’s ports.

Safeguarding the skills base

Secondly, and closely linked to this, is the importance of safeguarding and renewing the UK’s maritime skills base. Maritime UK is seeking a clear commitment from government to the preservation and expansion of vital maritime skills – which means both new seafarer recruits and students with relevant professional transport expertise to underpin the country’s land-based activities.

Maritime UK will continue to work with government to highlight the fact that seafarers work in a global environment, and to ensure that the regulatory conditions for employing seafarers in the UK-flag fleet are in line with those of other major shipping nations. The global fleet is crewed by seafarers from across the world, and they are generally employed at wage rates which relate to the countries in which they live, a practice which enables UK shipping to compete in a global market and remain internationally competitive. Maritime UK has worked closely with government to protect these existing arrangements and thereby safeguard the UK flag. Any fundamental shift away from these arrangements would be bad for the UK economy, damaging future job prospects for British officers and ratings and having a significant knock-on effect across the wider cluster.

Planning for the future

The third theme is planning for the future. Maritime UK is seriously concerned that the recent improvements in the maritime planning process – both for shore-side port developments and for the management of the coast – should be maintained and expanded in the future. Maritime UK will continue to work with government and the Crown Estate towards a speedy and soundly assessed approach to planning applications, supported by adequate resources and a proper, equitable division of costs between central government funding and the industry’s contribution. Specifically, Maritime UK would like to see road and rail links to ports given top priority, and any planning decisions relating to coastal movements and the positioning of offshore renewable energy installations governed by practical experience and a full appreciation of the nation’s trading needs.

Removing obstacles to business

The fourth theme of the manifesto is the importance of removing practical obstacles to doing business in the UK . One example concerns the recent substantial increase in ‘light dues’, the levy imposed on ships calling at British and Irish ports for the use of navigation aids at sea. Such an increase was not welcomed by shipping and ports, particularly in this time of recession. However, as a result of close working with Maritime UK partners and a positive dialogue with government, there is now a recognition of the inequities of the Irish subsidy, and the General Lighthouse Authorities are working constructively and cooperatively to reduce costs. This is a good step forward, and Maritime UK looks forward to these actions bearing fruit.

Keeping the sea secure

Finally, Maritime UK is keen to highlight that, as an island nation, the UK is dependent upon the safe passage of energy cargoes, food and manufactured goods through British ports. While planes, trains and lorries are highly visible, it is the shipping and ports sectors that transport the vast majority of goods traded in and out of this country. Threats to shipping from piracy and other illegal activities are increasing, putting trade, ships and seafarers around the world at risk. Maritime UK and government will work together to safeguard the shipping lanes, which are vital to our country, and to ensure the safe passage of goods through our ports.

A new era

The Maritime UK manifesto heralds a new era in industry–government relations. It presents the views of this fundamental sector on key maritime issues and offers expertise in a coherent and collaborative manner. We look forward to working with government to develop workable and dynamic policy positions that will provide the UK’s maritime services, and all the people they employ, with a prosperous future, creating jobs and reinforcing the UK’s leadership in a global maritime marketplace.

For more information on Maritime UK, or to download a series of policy-specific briefing papers, please visit www.maritimeuk.org