Former Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Transport, Nusrat Ghani, in a recent address to an audience of maritime leaders in Merseyside told them, they can be the ones to lead the UK out of the coronavirus crisis.
Ms Ghani added it was of prime importance that the maritime sector seek to strengthen further its links with Government and Whitehall.
A senior fellow at the Policy Exchange and a member of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee, Ms Ghani, a prominent backbench Conservative MP remains an influential actor in the UK’s post-Brexit and post-coronavirus industrial strategy.
As part of Mersey Maritime’s, Face-2-Face series of events (carried out online) she addressed dozens of members and said that it had become clear during the coronavirus pandemic how critical to the UK’s supply chain the maritime sector was.
Adding, “What is also clear is that the sector has not asked for a great deal of support during the crisis in comparison to other business sectors. But it will require a lot of support with technology if it is to compete across the world. COVID-19 has been a challenge for the maritime sector and there is now a good opportunity to demonstrate how important the sector is to the UK… the US-UK trade deal will be a very big deal for the country and we will need the input of the maritime sector, particularly on Merseyside, to make sure it is a success.”
Mersey Maritime, along with Maritime UK, is already playing a major role in influencing the Government’s industrial strategy and trade policy. It offered a significant input into the Maritime 2050 strategy, which offers a blueprint for the sector’s growth over the coming decades.
Chris Shirling-Rooke, the organisation’s chief executive, has also played a key role in strengthening trade links with America and provided vital data and advice for the government’s Maritime Recovery Plan. Ms Ghani said that it is this kind of expertise that, as the UK emerges from the pandemic, will be more important than ever in the upcoming months.
There is now widespread agreement that joblessness will be one of the biggest issues facing the government and the maritime industry could play a big role in leading recovery in coastal communities. Identifying key areas such as, investment in technology, skills and training, free energy and how we move cargo more efficiently across the country by via road and rail infrastructure. She prevailed upon the maritime sector to put itself at the vanguard of those areas.
“Each of the regions will need to agree what they are going to major on,” she explained. “You cannot all compete and be centres of excellence on the same thing. It is important to decide who is going to pitch for what. There is a big issue with unemployment coming down the line and that will have a big effect on coastal communities. Those communities will need investment and we will need the right people in the right jobs.”
She also said it was incredibly important that the proposed £25m Maritime Knowledge Hub in the docklands of Wirral get up and running.
The aim is for work on the facility to start later this year and could lead to the creation of up to 4,000 new jobs. The project, led by Mersey Maritime in partnership with Peel Holdings and local government has training as one of its core elements, and Ms Ghani urged the industry to speak to government to ensure the sector’s present and future skills-needs are met, adding, “Ports are very independent and don’t usually ask for help. Post-COVID we need to have a whole new conversation. Apprenticeships needs to be reviewed to make sure they work better for the maritime sector. When the sector has been bold on things such as technology, for example its work with drones, that has gone down really well with young people. We need to get the message across that there is a lot more to maritime careers than just going to sea. You want good people coming into maritime so that you guys can have a real choice about who you recruit. It is crucial to get the message across to Government that you can provide high value jobs and transferable skills.”