Chief executive of Mersey Maritime Chris Shirling-Rooke has told MPs in Westminster that the UK urgently needs a dedicated maritime minister. Tony McDonough reports
Mersey Maritime chief executive Chris Shirling-Rooke has told MPs in Westminster it is critical for the UK economy that the Government appoints a dedicated maritime minister.
Mr Shirling-Rooke, who speaks for the Liverpool city region’s £4.2bn maritime sector, was giving evidence to the Transport Select Committee of the House of Commons this week. The committee is undertaking an inquiry into the Maritime 2050 strategy which outlines plans for the sector over the next three decades.
Liverpool city region has established itself as one of the fastest-growing and most successful maritime clusters in Europe and the committee asked Mr Shirling-Rooke to offer his insights into the operational impact of Maritime 2050 at a regional level.
Maritime contributes £46bn to the UK economy every year and 95% of the food and other essential imports that come into the country arrive by sea through ports such as the Port of Liverpool. However, the current minister Robert Courts also doubles up as the UK’s aviation minister.
Speaking after giving evidence to the committee, Mr Shirling-Rooke said: “Mersey Maritime has been full square behind the principles of Maritime 2050 from the outset, indeed we contributed to its development based on our 20 years of experience in drawing all aspects of the industry together in the Liverpool city region.
“We are proud to have an incredibly close working relationship with the Department for Transport and successive ministers, including the incumbent Minister for Aviation and Maritime, Robert Courts who addressed our Mersey Maritime Exchange Conference last year and was guest of honour at the Mersey Maritime Industry Awards.
“We are grateful for his passion and commitment to the sector. But we believe that our industry warrants a more resolute focus on it with the dedicated support that a Minister’s sole focus would bring.
“After all, its worth more than £46bn to the UK economy, employs more than 1.1m people and locally makes a massive £4.2bn contribution to the Liverpool city region with some of the most productive workers of any sector in some of the best paid jobs.”
He added that a dedicated minister for maritime would “underline a commitment to our coastal communities and take the industry to “the next level”. He added: “Our industry facilitates some 95% of all trade and kept the country fed, fuelled and supplied during the pandemic.”
Addressing the committee, Mr Shirling-Rooke stressed the views he was putting forward weren’t just his own but those of people from across the maritime sector – from small and medium-sized businesses to large companies. He also made the case for better east-west connectivity, accelerated decarbonisation and a commitment to offshore wind.
He added: “Mersey Maritime believes we need to see a greater emphasis on east-west connectivity to truly level-up the North of England and drive forward the triangle of new Freeports in Liverpool, the Tees Valley and Humber as massive ‘global trade zones’ – I made the case for that today.
“And if we are to deliver net zero and decarbonisation, we have to put our money where our mouth is across both industry and government. That’s why I called on Government to ‘take the investment risk’ alongside industrial partners such Bibby Marine to deliver the next generation of offshore wind service vessels.
“It can’t be right that these green energy resources are maintained by the fuels and capability of the carbon age. Together we can give the UK – and our region here in Liverpool – a major competitive edge and if we get it right export our expertise around the world. It’s the right thing to do but we need to get on with it now.”
In addition to giving oral evidence, Mersey Maritime submitted written evidence to the Select Committee via its Head of Partnerships and Policy, Simon Eardley. This has now been published on the UK Parliament website and is available to read by clicking here.