Liverpool hosts US-UK maritime trade talks aboard aircraft carrier

Mersey Maritime takes a key role in the third Maritime Nations Forum held on board HMS Prince of Wales, moored at Liverpool Cruise Terminal. Tony McDonough reports

HMS Prince of Wales
HMS Prince of Wales at Liverpool Cruise Terminal. Picture by Tony McDonough


Maritime industry leaders from the UK and the US have met today for high level trade talks in Liverpool aboard Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales.

This is the third Maritime Nations Forum and the third to be held on one of the UK’s two new aircraft carriers. In 2018, the forum met on HMS Queen Elizabeth in New York and in Washington DC last November.

Government officials, as well as representatives from industry bodies Mersey Maritime, Maritime UK and a number of businesses, took part in the forum which coincides with the imminent start of trade talks between the UK and the US.

Britain’s International Trade Secretary, Liz Truss, says Government analysis shows the UK economy would benefit to the tune of £3.4bn a year under a new post-Brexit trade deal with the US, with transatlantic trade flows growing by £15.3bn.

The UK maritime sector is currently worth around £40bn a year with the Liverpool city region, recognised as the most successful maritime cluster in Europe, accounting for more than £4bn of that total. Liverpool is the UK’s principal west-facing port and would stand to benefit significantly from increased transatlantic trade.

Mersey Maritime chief executive Chris Shirling-Rooke, is taking a leading role in the forum aboard HMS Prince of Wales which is currently moored at Liverpool Cruise Terminal.

Mr Shirling-Rooke said: “The timing of the latest forum could not be more important. With trade talks between the US and the UK set to begin, the Department for Transport has tasked us with formulating the UK maritime sector’s contribution to those negotiations.

The forum will celebrate the strength of UK-US relations and explore further areas for collaboration, specifically covering developments in each respective national maritime sector. There will also be discussions around key areas for negotiation in a future UK-US free trade agreement and what opportunities exist for enhanced collaboration and best practice sharing.

“Our place at the centre of this process is a further sign of the Liverpool city region’s growing influence on the UK’s maritime sector and on Government trade policy. Liverpool is re-establishing its position as one of the world’s leading maritime clusters.”

Chaired by Harry Theochari, Chair of Maritime UK, the forum will be relatively informal to encourage “free flowing and dynamic interaction”. Key topics up for discussion, include: 

  • What are the maritime sector’s priorities under a new UK-US free trade agreement? 
  • With the UK due to host the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November, and its commitment to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, how will maritime decarbonise and where can we collaborate?
  • With rising protectionism across the world, how do we make the case for free trade today?

Other companies taking part in the forum include Port of Liverpool operator Peel Ports, global financial services business Western Union Business Solutions, and Merseyside’s Kays Medical, which has a longstanding connection with the maritime sector, and Royal HaskoningDHV.

Chris Shirling-Rooke
Chris Shirling-Rooke, chief executive of Mersey Maritime


In a statement, Peel Ports said: “Liverpool is the UK’s foremost port and is ideally positioned for increased trade with the US and indeed the rest of the Americas. It has the relevant investment and infrastructure to make it the UK’s most important and valuable trade link to take our commercial activities across the Atlantic to a new level.

“As we look ahead to a post-Brexit future, we must make the most of trade opportunities across the Atlantic for the sake of our economy and the Liverpool area is ideally placed to support a positive future for the nation’s import and export activity. Attention has inevitably turned west and we are ready to play our part in ensuring a positive future for UK plc.”

Howard Young, global head of channel partners, Western Union Business Solutions, said: “We are thrilled to have been invited aboard HMS Prince of Wales as she docks in Liverpool to join our key strategic partner Mersey Maritime and their guests in the continuation of the UK/US trade discussions. We were part of the original groups in New York and then in Washington DC last November and it will be interesting to see how the discussions go on this side of the Atlantic.

“International trade between any countries can be a complex affair with many moving parts. Western Union Business Solutions is uniquely placed to provide insights and comment to support the maritime industry and we look forward to sharing those at this amazing event.”

Benjamin Ludzker, chief executive of Kays Medical, said: “We are in an unprecedented time of opportunity between our two nations. In the now truly global world that we find ourselves; partnerships, trade and mobility are virtually unlimited and the maritime industry will remain an invaluable enabler to success. Kays is proud to support and service our maritime friends and partners on both sides of the Atlantic and looks forward to increasing business from our Liverpool head office.”

Jamie Gray, associate director Maritime and Aviation at Royal HaskoningDHV, said: “Having operated in North America for many years, particularly in the maritime and aviation sectors, we are very keen to explore opportunities to further export our global expertise in to the US.”

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