24 January saw the government announcement of its strategy to remain a world leader in the maritime industry for the next 30 years. The announcement includes a range of short, medium and long-term proposals including developing technology, people and infrastructure to keep the maritime industry in the UK flourishing.

Verity Slater, Head of Marine, summarises what she sees as the key points for the Cornish marine sector:

  • One ambition is to continue to be a global leader in safety and security standards and expertise. This means there is unlikely to be any relaxation of the current regulatory requirements which are held up as exemplar. Not hitting any of those standards, particularly around safety, is likely to continue to be treated seriously by government departments. The government has also proposed a new Merchant Shipping Act to be looked at over the next five years.
  • Another ambition is to maximise benefits to the UK of new maritime tech. The government has committed to exploring more opportunities to support innovation and get ideas and products to market. With this comes the possibility of more training, support and grant funding for SMEs in the sector. Good news for the growing number of marine tech firms in Falmouth and beyond. ‘Green’ tech especially is being promoted.
  • There is to be more testing and use of autonomous vessels and ‘smart shipping’. This could open opportunities for the marine tech businesses and local waters/harbours to be test grounds. See our previous article which also explores some of the complexities around protecting new marine tech.
  • The strategy recognises we could see significant changes arising from climate change – flooding, extreme weather and coastal erosion. Ports specifically are asked to plan and respond to their unique vulnerabilities to this and to increase the resilience of their properties. Those with water frontage should also consider and plan ahead.
  • Marine clusters are recognised as having a significant impact. The Cornwall cluster is specifically identified and recognised as accounting for 1 in 7 of those employed in the UK marine sector, albeit that it says that the focus is on leisure. This suggests that funding for organisations like Cornwall Marine Network may be given along with other support and promotion for our cluster. There is recognition of the attractiveness of Cornwall as a significant place for marine within the UK.
  • Smaller ports are recognised as being important for logistics and supply chains. The aim is for industry to develop these with government support. A cross-sector innovation hub will be introduced at a UK port by 2030 to seek to develop digital and automated processes for easier throughput of goods and passengers. Why not in Cornwall?
  • The government wants to grow the marine workforce and increase its diversity – specifically employing more women in the sector. Although there are some strong women represented in the sector in Cornwall, I’m sure more would be welcome. If you don’t have an equality policy, now may be the time to get one from us, not least as often they are requested on tenders and seek to protect you in the event of a discrimination claim. Consider also how you recruit and attract staff to your business. Could you cast the net wider than you do now?
  • The government has also committed to work with the leisure, superyacht and small commercial marine industry to ensure their needs are factored into the strategic growth agenda for the maritime sector. This is a useful commitment for our area but the detail on what that looks like is a little thin. One short-term goal is to continue to look for appropriate means of support for SMEs to export, attend tradeshows and explore opportunities to enhance their impact in the boat and shipbuilding sectors. This could be financial but may consist of help in planning and leadership.

So what next?

The plan is that the government and the maritime sector will now put in place the most appropriate mechanisms for the delivery of the Maritime 2050 strategy, including more direct interaction with UK maritime companies and SMEs. It would be very interesting to know if you hear from them and to see how effectively the plans are implemented. Certainly if they are, there appear to be useful opportunities for Cornwall.

The full documents can be found here.