Mersey Maritime spreads cluster message across UK

As the representative body of Liverpool city region’s £5bn maritime sector, Mersey Maritime is now helping to grow the sector across the UK. Tony McDonough reports

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Mersey Maritime represents  Merseyside’s £5bn maritime sector. Picture by Tony McDonough


Mersey Maritime is leveraging its reputation as the UK’s leading maritime cluster to help grow the sector across the country.

From its headquarters in Birkenhead, close to the River Mersey, Mersey Maritime is the voice of Liverpool city region’s £5bn maritime sector. Among its membership are hundreds of businesses from more than 30 sub-sectors.

Now, with the backing of the Government, the cluster organisation is regularly travelling to other coastal regions in the UK to promote the growth of the maritime sector and the critical role cluster organisation can play.

Head of partnerships and policy and regional cluster development manager at Mersey Maritime, Simon Eardley, addressed members at its final Face-2-Face breakfast networking event of 2022.

Simon’s colleagues, Emma Wilson and Abbie Milne, also spoke to detail the wide range work Mersey Maritime has undertaken during 2022. Major events included the Maritime Exchange Conference in June and the Mersey Maritime Industry Awards in November.

In June Mersey Maritime published two pieces of research. They revealed that across the UK, maritime is worth £116bn a year and that the industry in Liverpool city region alone is worth £5bn a year. Across the country maritime employs, directly and indirectly, more than 1m people.

“This ‘deep dive’ research revealed the true value of the maritime industry across the UK,” Simon told those at the event. And the jobs are highly productive jobs with renumeration 30% higher than the UK average.

“Maritime has grown by 35% over the past 10 years. Our coastal regions play a major part and the contribution of the Liverpool city region has been crucial to that.”

In 2019 Mersey Maritime, which is led by chief executive Chris Shirling-Rooke, put a proposal to the Department for Transport. It wanted to take the message about the power of industry clusters to the rest of the UK.

This became the Regional Cluster Development Programme. Phase one covered 2019-20 and the phase two, which is live right now, extends to 2023. Simon explained the plan was to continue the programme from 2024.

There are now four fully-fledged clusters in the UK – Liverpool city region, South West England, the Solent and Belfast. Mersey Maritime is now working to develop new clusters in Scotland, the Humber, the South East and North East of England and East Anglia.


Simon Eardley
Simon Eardley addresses the Mersey Maritime Face-2-Face event


Simon added: “If we continue after 2024 then we will also start looking at new areas such as Wales. Regions matter and this is about spreading that message around the country.

“Our work involves championing the industry all over the country. We aim to support existing cluster organisations and, crucially, identify opportunities to set up new cluster organisations. It also gives us the opportunity to promote the work of our own members at Mersey Maritime.”

This year Mersey Maritime celebrated its 20th anniversary under the banner ‘Stronger Together’.

In a video played to members at the Face-2-Face event, its founding chief executive Jim Teasdale spoke about the early days of the organisation and how much progress had been made over the past two decades.

He acknowledged how the influence of Mersey Maritime had grown since he handed the baton to Chris Shirling-Rooke.

“From the start we had a strong desire to make sure we had high standards… We have improved the image of the sector and created jobs and that has always been the key driver,” said Jim.

At the Mersey Maritime Awards in November, Chris announced that, to mark its 20th anniversary, the organisation had pledged to raise £20,000 for The Hive Youth Zone in Birkenhead as part of its commitment to revitalise coastal communities.

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