Mersey Maritime announces departure of CEO

Chief executive of Mersey Maritime, Chris Shirling-Rooke is to leave his post after 10 years and make a ‘seamless transfer’ to the top job at Maritime UK. Tony McDonough reports

Chris Shirling-Rooke
Mersey Maritime chief executive Chris Shirling-Rooke is leaving the organisation


Mersey Maritime chief executive Chris Shirling-Rooke is leaving the Birkenhead organisation to head up Maritime UK.

Chris, who has been at Mersey Maritime for 10 years, will depart in the early summer in a “seamless transfer” to take up the role of chief executive of the national body which represents the £116bbn UK maritime industry.

During his time in Birkenhead Chris has overseen the transformation of Liverpool city region’s maritime sector into one of the most successful industry cluster organisations in Europe.

In June 2022 Mersey Maritime published new analysis which showed the Liverpool city region maritime sector had grown 181% between 2010 and 2019. It is now worth around £5bn a year, covers more than 30 sub-sectors and supports more than 48,000 jobs.

Government has credited the organisation’s cluster model as playing a big role in that growth. 

Almost four years ago Mersey Maritime secured £50,000 in funding from the Government to take its cluster model to other coastal regions in the UK. It matched this with £50,000 from its own coffers.

It later secured a further £300,000 and Chris, and head of partnerships and policy, Simon Eardley, now regularly visit regions including Solent, the South West, the Humber, Scotland and Northern Ireland. In March LBN revealed more funding was in the pipeline.

In his new role at Maritime UK, Chris will look to accelerate the ‘coastal powerhouse’ agenda which is a key plank of the Government’s Maritime 2050 strategy. And he says the decarbonisation of the sector will be a “major focus”.

“It is an incredible honour for me to take on this new position and to build on the fantastic work already delivered by the Maritime UK team on behalf of its members, stakeholders and the industry as whole,” he said.

“Major overarching challenges face our sector which supports more than 1m jobs, contributes in excess of £46bn to our economy and is responsible for facilitating 95% of UK global trade. 

“Our response to climate change and how we influence the delivery of key initiatives such as the Clean Maritime Plan, due to be published later this year, will be a major focus.

“This is as well as ensuring we maximise the opportunity presented by London International Shipping Week in September to showcase our dynamic industry to the whole world.”


Mersey Maritime
Chris Shirling-Rooke and Simon Eardley have taken the Mersey Maritime cluster message across the UK


Chris joined Mersey Maritime in 2013 and has led a small team whose role is to support members business growth, highlight the breadth and diversity of the sector and strengthen local supply chains by building relationships across companies of all sizes. He was appointed MBE in 2021 for services to maritime.

John Hulmes, chairman of Mersey Maritime, said a new CEO would be announced “in due course”. He added: “Chris leaves Mersey Maritime on a high having made a huge contribution to the numerous and often complex outcomes we are involved in.

“He has, at a time of great maritime opportunity, raised our profile regionally, nationally and internationally. Mersey Maritime is the voice of the industry in the region and Chris has led his team with vigour, elan and innovation.”

Robin Mortimer, chair of Maritime UK, also said: “He (Chris) brings a track record of leadership and commitment in promoting maritime and the crucial role the sector plays in the life of the UK. 

“Chris will be focussed on delivering on behalf of all Maritime UK’s members.  He is passionate about the sector making a positive impact economically, socially and environmentally.”

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