Mersey is ‘at the heart’ of UK maritime, says Princess Royal

Addressing a major maritime industry summit held in Birkenhead on Friday, Princess Anne said Merseyside ‘sat at the heart of the regional and national maritime eco-system’. Tony McDonough reports

Princess Royal, Princess Anne
Princess Anne addressed the Maritime Exchange conference held in Birkenhead


Liverpool city region is “at the heart” of the UK’s £46bn maritime sector, the Princess Royal told those attending a high-powered industry summit.

Offering an opening address for the third annual Maritime Exchange conference in Birkenhead, Princess Anne said Merseyside” sat at the heart of the regional and national maritime eco-system”, adding “It is very appropriate that such a national occasion for the sector is being held in Merseyside”.

Held at the headquarters of Mersey Maritime and broadcast live to an online audience, the Maritime Exchange, Maritime 2050: Where are we now? was organised by Mersey Maritime in partnership with the Department for Transport and Maritime UK. It debated the progress of the UK’s Government’s Maritime 2050 report.

The conference was sponsored by Brabners, Nautilus International, OPS Wind, and Peel Ports Group. And it was supported by Wirral Council.

Speaking via a video link, the Princess said: “Mersey Maritime sits at the heart of the regional and national maritime eco-system. The North West is an iconic maritime region with a global trading gateway for the world with a rich heritage in ship building and engineering.

“A region that is adapting to the future and is embracing net zero with significant hydrogen and offshore wind projects as well as disruptive technologies.”

She praised the £23m Maritime Knowledge Hub project, which will be built around a 19th century hydraulic tower in Wirral Waters. She added it would offer “innovation, digitalisation and decarbonisation at its core”.

“Liverpool city region has recently been announced as one of the first eight freeport locations and again the backdrop of today’s events in Birkenhead will play a key role in the success of this project,” said the Princess, the patron of Maritime UK.

“Everyone in the maritime sector is aware of the unique and critical role that maritime plays in national life. I am pleased to say that in recent months and years, the rest of the country has started to recognise that importance.

“Whether through the pandemic and the role of our key workers, in creating jobs in coastal areas, or in transitioning our economy to net zero, more and more people are getting behind maritime.

“There is much for this sector to do to realise its potential, but the good news is that we have, for the first time, a common vision and roadmap for getting there. That is Maritime 2050.

“The strategy cannot be delivered by any one company or organisation. It is a testament to the commitment and collaborative approach of the sector that so much has been achieved already.

“The review, launched by Maritime UK, shows just what can be achieved when we work together, and I want to thank everyone for the work they have done to support this tremendous first step. Industry and government, working together, can achieve great things.”

Opening the conference, Mersey Maritime chief executive Chris Shirling-Rooke said the first Maritime Exchange, held at Liverpool Town Hall in 2019, had “brought together national and international thought leaders”.

He added: “That first event was centred around the launch of Maritime 2050 and it now seems the perfect time to take stock of where we are.”

The conference featured a range of key-note speeches and panel discussions, focused around the themes of people; innovation; environment; competitiveness; and regional growth.

Maritime Minister Robert Courts was in Birkenhead and offered a keynote address. He was joined via video link by Innovation Minister Amanda Solloway and Minister for International Trade, Graham Stuart. Former Maritime Minister, Nusrat Ghani, one of the authors of Maritime 2050, also spoke.

Chris Shirling-Rooke
Mersey Maritime chief executive Chris Shirling-Rooke. Picture by Tony McDonough
Robert Courts
Maritime Minister Robert Courts speaking at the 2021 Maritime Exchange. Picture by Tony McDonough
Sarah Kenny
Sarah Kenny, chair of Maritime UK. Picture by Tony McDonough


Mr Courts said: “Liverpool city region has maritime in its DNA. Seafarers have been sailing from here for a thousand years. It is a city region with a famous past and one with a great future ahead of it.

“People are the critical factor at the heart of Maritime 2050. Over the past 18 months a lot has been put on hold but progress on Maritime 2050 has been continuing. As part of the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan we have secured £10m towards decarbonisation of the maritime sector.

“There is a shared desire across the sector to help it change. Together we will deliver a cleaner and more diverse maritime sector. It is going to make us stronger.”

On the same day the conference was being held, ship crews on the Mersey and around the world sounded their horns as part of an industry-wide celebration to mark the International Day of the Seafarer. It recognises  the invaluable contribution of seafarers worldwide.

Sarah Kenny, Chair of Maritime UK, who also spoke at the Maritime Exchange, said: “Throughout this pandemic, our seafarers have been among the best of us. From the beginning, they have selflessly worked on the frontline to ensure crucial global supply chains continue in the most challenging of circumstances.

“We are proud to celebrate their work and to look ahead to what could be a very promising future for our seafarers, and our industry, as we begin to emerge from this crisis.”

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