As London International Shipping Week draws to a close, Chief Executive of Mersey Maritime, Chris Shirling-Rooke, reflects on how Mersey Maritime and the Liverpool City Region played a leading role at the heart of the world’s premier event in the global maritime calendar:
Once again London International Shipping Week has provided a fantastic opportunity for Mersey Maritime to showcase the very best of the sector in our region to a national and international audience. All of us involved in the maritime industry here in Merseyside know how much it matters but it’s good to remind ourselves just how much from time to time. Our involvement in a number of key events proved the depth and wide impact that Mersey Maritime and its members is having. From offering the opportunity for individual businesses to meet key industry contacts, to promoting debate to influence future policy decisions that will have a direct impact on how successful our industry can be in the future, we’ve sought to demonstrate in a practical way that we are ‘stronger together.’
For me, three opportunities stood out during the week. Mersey Maritime is taking a leading role in the national Maritime UK and HM Government regional cluster development programme, so it was a pleasure for me to chair the afternoon ‘Regional Spotlight’ event on Monday which from the South West to Scotland was an opportunity for colleagues around the country to promote their diverse work. For a joint Mersey Maritime and Team Humber Marine Alliance session we debated the imperative for our two clusters of ‘east-west connectivity’. The senior panel we assembled, with representatives from the Institute of Export and International Trade, Peel Ports, P&O Ferries, Associated British Ports and the British Ports Association, proved the importance of clusters working together to push forward-thinking around critical policy matters. Our joint message was simple: investment in regional transport infrastructure needs to be high on the national political agenda and by talking with one voice we stand a better chance of seeing this realised.
Following our intensive afternoon of debate, we were delighted to offer the opportunity for our partners, members and guests to network at what is a firm fixture in the bi-annual Shipping Week calendar, ‘Mersey on the Thames’. Whilst undoubtedly a pleasant social occasion – with Liverpool Gin on offer and photo opportunities with the Champions League Trophy, courtesy of Liverpool FC – there were many chances for business opportunities to be explored with colleagues from across the sector present. That’s one of the most important features of LISW, the ability to reach out to across every part of the maritime industry both here in the UK and internationally too. The talent pool within Mersey Maritime is considerable with some of the most highly skilled and high productive individuals employed in the economy. We can and should be at the forefront of the UK maritime industry in the years ahead.
Finally, on Wednesday Maritime UK launched its ‘State of the Maritime Nation’ report in Parliament, where a delegation of Mersey Maritime members were present. Whilst casting a light on the sector on a national basis, it is important to remember that the nature of the maritime sector means the opportunities available are geographically spread across the UK. We commissioned our own focus on the ‘State of Maritime in the Liverpool City Region’ and will publish the findings shortly but one thing is clear: the maritime sector is at the heart of our local economy in many ways. We have a huge opportunity to unleash further the dynamism and diversity we offer here and Mersey Maritime will be at the forefront of facilitating this for our partners.
The simple fact that the UK maritime sector facilitates 95% of all UK trade – more than both the automotive and aerospace transport industries – and the size of the industry locally, means the dynamic range of businesses and their employees are having a direct impact on the British economy now. They are also critical to its future success. I am proud that so many of our Mersey Maritime members, from the largest to the smallest, are playing their part in our local and national prosperity but we can’t rest on our laurels. There will be challenges in the months ahead with the ongoing uncertainty that the Brexit debate brings but there will also be huge opportunities.
Maritime has always played a special role in the life of our island nation and it has been a defining feature of the coastal community here in the Liverpool City Region for centuries. London International Shipping Week has invigorated me further to continue my task of placing Mersey Maritime and its members at heart of the ongoing opportunities that will be there for us on the global stage in the years ahead. Will you be part of it too?