Government pumps £1m into coastal ‘cluster’ project 

A project pioneered by Mersey Maritime to take its hugely successful ‘cluster’ model across the UK secures a £1m Government cash injection. Tony McDonough reports

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Mersey Maritime’s cluster model has turned the sector into a £5bn powerhouse. Picture by Tony McDonough


A ‘cluster’ model that has helped to turn Liverpool city region into £5bn-a-year powerhouse is to be further rolled out across the UK.

In March LBN reported how industry member organisation Mersey Maritime had pioneered the regional clusters programme. It began four years ago with £50,000 from the Government matched by a further £50,000 from Mersey Maritime.

Chris Shirling-Rooke, who was then chief executive of Mersey Maritime, along with the organisation’s head of partnerships and policy, Simon Eardley, took to the road to promote the cluster model to other coastal regions in the UK.

After impressing industry leaders in the Solent region, the South West, the Humber, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the Government offered the project a further £300,000.

Last week maritime minister Baroness Vere announced a further £1m in funding at London International Shipping week.

Chris Shirling-Rooke, who is now chief executive of Maritime UK, said: “Maritime has always understood that our coastal areas are just as aspirational as any other part of the UK.

“This is why we created the cluster model – uniting businesses, Government, and academia – to match the true ambitions of these communities.

“Clusters have since created thousands of jobs and generated billions for local economies. With today’s funding, we will take this model across our coast to create new engines for regional growth.”

In Liverpool city region Mersey Maritime, which is now led by interim chief executive Ruth Wood, has brought together hundreds of businesses from maritime’s 33 diverse sub-sectors, from shipping to financial services, and encouraged them to work together.

This has led to a period of collaboration, innovation and the sharing of ideas. More critically it has led to a 20% growth in the sector in Merseyside. The industry is now worth £5bn a year and supports almost 50,000 jobs.

Mersey Maritime was also strongly represented at London International Shipping Week (LSIW). It held a ‘Mersey on the Thames’ reception attended by members, industry leaders and shadow shipping minister Mike Cane.

LISW also saw an announcement by Baroness Vere offering a new package of measures, worth around £10m, to support the decarbonisation of the UK’s £116bn maritime sector.

This includes a £1.5 million pot to boost the UK’s leading green shipping credentials, launched through the International Green Corridor Fund.

There will also be two new research hubs unveiled to boost development of net zero technologies, including a specific Clean Maritime Research Hub led by Durham University and including the University of Liverpool, which is receiving £7.4m.

Supporting and speaking at the Mersey Maritime event the group commercial director at Port of Liverpool owner Peel Ports Group, Stephen Carr, said the Merseyside maritime sector needed to take the lead in the net zero push.


Mersey Maritime
Chris Shirling-Rooke and Simon Eardley have taken the Mersey Maritime cluster message across the UK
Ruth Wood
Ruth Wood, interim chief executive at Mersey Maritime


“While the last decade has been really important for the growth of traffic on the River Mersey,” he said. “I really believe the next decade will be even more important given the energy transition and the opportunities that present the region.

“Given that is one of the key themes of International Shipping Week it is really important that Mersey Maritime and the wider industry is represented to position itself as the leading estuary for driving the transition the country faces.”

Ruth Wood added: “We are delighted to have welcomed members and stakeholders here for our Mersey on the Thames event as part of London International Shipping Week.

“It’s great to have had so many of our members here celebrate alongside us. The future for the Liverpool city region maritime sector is really fantastic and we are really excited about collaborating with our members going forward.”

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