Mersey Maritime’s cluster approach can help create 4,000 new jobs in five years

Mersey Maritime chief executive Chris Shirling-Rooke told the International Maritime Forum in Liverpool it had established the most successful industry cluster in the UK. Tony McDonough reports

International Maritime Forum
Mersey Maritime chief executive Chris Shirling-Rooke addresses the International Maritime Forum


Industry body Mersey Maritime says it can help the maritime sector to create 4,000 new jobs across the Liverpool city region over the next five years.

Mersey Maritime chief executive Chris Shirling-Rooke told the International Maritime Forum at Liverpool’s International Business Festival that the business was widely acknowledged as the most successful maritime cluster in the UK.

He added it was part of a collaboration with Peel, Liverpool John Moores University and Wirral Council on the £25m Maritime Knowledge Hub (MKH), a training and business incubation facility will be created in Wirral’s Waters with work due to begin later this year.

The MKH, he said would provide a catalyst to accelerate business growth across the city region maritime sector and would also provide facilities for children and young people to “introduce maritime to the next generation”.

Panel discussion

“The key word for is intervention – to help SMEs across the city region grow and create jobs,” said Chris, who was taking part in a panel discussion on the importance of clusters. “What we have here is not a collection or conurbation of big businesses but an entire eco-system that helps businesses to grow.”

He said Mersey Maritime was formed in 2003 to address the “disjointed” nature of the Merseyside sector and set about creating a cluster that put “skills at the top of the agenda”.

He explained: “Our target has been jobs and growth but also the need to became less dependent on the public sector. Not so long ago about 80% of or funding came from the public sector – now that is down into single digits.”


Chris also offered a snapshot of how diverse the maritime sector in the city region is, adding: “There are 33 sub-sectors in maritime and ship and ports account for only around 8% of that – it is about the whole supply chain.

“It is for us to intervene where Government and big business has not. Networking in the maritime sector is critical – it is a very trust-based area of business. We are a conduit for collaboration.”

And, talking about working with other UK clusters, he added: “It us not about us working in silos. There is always some competition between clusters but it is also about working closely with other clusters nationally.”

During the session Mark O’Reilly, chairman and chief executive of Team Humber Maritime Alliance agreed that collaboration both within and between maritime clusters offered a significant boost to the UK’s global economic ambitions.

Dick Welsh, director of the Isle of Man Ship Registry, offered a view from outside the structure of the EU. He said: “We look at this as a non-EU state and we stand on our two feet.

International Maritime Forum
Hill Dickinson lawyer Colin Lavelle speaks at the International Maritime Forum


“We are in a position to serve the needs of the maritime industry and we are home to a number of different services, including legal, insurance, technical management, finance, education and training.

“People like being in cluster because those in the shipping community like to talk to each other, do business with each other and socialise with other shipping people.”

Huge investment

Also on the panel was Colin Lavelle, a maritime lawyer and Liverpool law firm Hill Dickinson. He offered a fascinating insight into huge project launched by the Chinese government in 2013 called One Belt One Road (OBOR).

Colin said: “By 2030 60% of the global middle class will be living in Asia and a number of funds have already been established worth billions of dollars.

“The Marshall Plan, which was a massive aid programme funded by the US to rebuild Western Europe after the Second World War, was only a 12th of the size of OBOR. This will reshape international trade and shipping.”

He talked about the possible legal implications for those getting involved and said OBOR could be perceived as an economic threat by Europe – but also potentially offered massive opportunities for the maritime sector.

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