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Mersey Maritime takes leading role in major party conference reception with Transport Secretary

By Mersey Maritime

In his capacity as Assistant Chair of Maritime UK, Mersey Maritime CEO, Chris Shirling-Rooke, spoke at a major reception event at the Conservative Party Conference on Sunday 3rd October 2021. The event, attended by some three hundred delegates, featured a keynote address from the Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP, Secretary of State for Transport, and comes as the Government is expected to publish a Comprehensive Spending Review at the end of October. Maritime UK was also represented at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton at the end of September 2021 where a roundtable event on maritime matters was held.

Speaking at the event, Chris Shirling-Rooke said:

“Friends, it’s great to be here for the second Maritime Reception at conference. Thanks for being here and for showing your support for maritime industry! I’m delighted to be here on behalf of Maritime UK – the national umbrella body for the maritime sector. Bringing together the shipping, ports, engineering, science, professional services and leisure marine industries. Thanks to Grant Shapps for again speaking at this reception, and more broadly for championing this amazing sector.

Tonight is an occasion to celebrate our incredible maritime ecosystem and all that it offers. An ecosystem that supports over 1 million jobs, adds £46.1bn to our economy, meaning that maritime makes a greater contribution to the UK economy than both rail and air combined. Maritime enables 95% of UK trade. Food, energy, medicine, and just about everything else. COVID, Brexit and supply chain crisis highlights how vital our maritime sector is to the UK’s economy. And with the Prime Minister and others doing the rounds this morning talking about pay, this is a sector that really pulls its weight. Maritime jobs are well-paid and highly skilled, paying an average £9,000 more than the national average. And the average UK maritime worker is 42% more productive than the UK average.

Growing maritime makes good economic sense. For every £1 generated by the sector, a total £2.71 is generated across the UK economy. With projects like the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers demonstrating the value of companies collaborating across the country, maritime embodies the strength of the union. Colleagues, maritime is starting to be recognised by decision-makers and since we last gathered in this room two years ago, there have been some significant developments. Allow me to list a few:

  • The Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution included maritime and provided an initial £23 million for a competition to develop clean maritime technology. Grant announced the winners of these at London International Shipping Week last month – 55 projects from across the UK, spearheading our transition to net zero.
  • The Chancellor announced the first eight freeports, offering the prospect of accelerated economic development in coastal areas by growing maritime and related development. Ports are developing plans to go beyond the £600m of private funds they invest each year to further drive growth in coastal areas.
  • The Government is refreshing its National Shipbuilding Strategy to look at commercial and leisure as well as defence vessel builds. The Prime Minister announced his intention for the UK to become a green ‘shipbuilding superpower’.
  • International shipping emissions have been included as part of the UK’s national emissions targets for the first time and the Transport Decarbonisation Plan has been published, which makes “UK-SHORE” – or the Shipping Office for Reducing Emissions, government policy.
  • The Government has announced plans for the building of a new National Flagship.

These are positive steps forward. But, friends, we do need to go further. Our global competition is ramping up investment, and we must do the same. With thanks to Grant, we have a strong maritime Spending Review bid sitting with the Treasury, this is absolutely crucial to the future success of our sector. You can see the bullets on this banner here, or in the booklets – it’s designed to accelerate our transition to net zero, rejuvenate shipbuilding and create 74,000 new jobs in coastal communities.

If there are two messages to take away from tonight, the first is that maritime is perfectly placed to support this government’s agenda:

  • Levelling up – our Coastal Powerhouse Manifesto sets out how we can unlock further growth in coastal areas like mine. And it’s not just about public investment.
  • Leading the transition to Net Zero: our Spending Review bid would accelerate the sector’s move to net zero and position the UK at the front of the pack globally. We won’t get to net zero without decarbonising maritime.
  • Advancing Global Britain and seizing the opportunities of EU Exit: By enabling our island nation’s global trade and driving exports and investment.

And the second message is that we welcome government’s ambitious climate targets, but these must be paired with ambitious investment plans, too. So, friends, to close, this is a sector hardwired into the DNA of our island nation, we are a coastal community of 67 million people. We’ve made significant progress in the last two years, but we can go further. And that needs to happen at the Spending Review – so, if you see the Chancellor or Treasury Ministers around Manchester, please do press the case!

Grant, other Parliamentarians, thank you for your support and partnership. Maritime UK is committed to working as closely as possible to deliver for this most important of sectors and our country.”

Read more about the Maritime UK Comprehensive Spending Review bid, which is backed by Mersey Maritime, here:

Mersey Maritime
About Mersey Maritime
Mersey Maritime is the representative body for the Maritime Sector and related industry sectors operating across the Liverpool City Region. We work with businesses of all sizes and in all locations to develop strong, market-responsive supply chains and promote Liverpool’s maritime industry as a world class Centre of Excellence.


Mersey Maritime is one of Europe’s most successful maritime cluster organisations, representing the interests of over 1700 Maritime, Logistics and Energy businesses on Merseyside and beyond.

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Mersey Maritime takes leading role in major party conference reception with Transport Secretary