News: Maritime UK Chair addresses Superyacht UK seminar

David Dingle, Maritime UK Chair, provided the 'State of the Industry' address to the Superyacht UK Technical Seminar at the London Boat Show yesterday (12 January). 

Delegates included representatives from shipyards, designers, naval architects, lawyers, insurance and management companies with expertise in the superyacht sector.

Recognising the UK's world-leading superyacht capability, David Dingle said:

"The UK possesses world class build and refit facilities; some of the world’s most renowned superyacht designers are British; much of the marine equipment and interior design that goes into superyachts built around the world is British supplied.

"We have some of the biggest names in superyacht brokerage; we lead the world in training superyacht captains & crew and London is the centre for large yacht legal and insurance activity.

"It was no surprise therefore to see latest figures released at the Monaco Yacht Show last September reporting an 11.5% increase in superyacht-related revenues. Congratulations on this success."

David Dingle CBE speech to Superyacht UK technical seminar, London Boat Show, 12 January 2017

May I begin by thanking British Marine and Superyacht UK for inviting me to visit the London Boat Show to speak to you today as Chairman of Maritime UK. My brief was to talk about the state of the industry and in doing so I want talk about the opportunity for the wider marine and maritime industries in the Government’s Maritime Growth Study and how we must positively address the challenges of Brexit.

Let me give you some background on Maritime UK as an organisation. From the beginning, Maritime UK comprised the shipping, ports and maritime trade associations, and not long ago it extended its reach to include the marine manufacturing, repair and leisure craft industries, including superyachts, which represent another very significant voice.  British Marine became a member in March last year and has played a very active role on behalf of your sector. Other large organisations have recently joined and we are now beginning to draw in the plethora of established and emerging regional bodies.  Maritime UK was built by its members and operates for its members, and depending on the nature of any particular issue it will assess which members are most impacted and most able to represent industry.  In return Maritime UK is there to use its collective strength in support of any one part of the marine and maritime cluster.

It may also help me put this into context if I say a few words about my day job – cruising.  In a moment I will talk about driving economic growth and success in the British maritime sector, and there is no better example of this than the cruise industry which goes from strength to strength.  This is a market which has enjoyed constant growth for some 25 years now, has a new cruise ship order book approaching $50 billion in value and unfailingly delivers strong returns and societal benefits every year.  Approaching 2 million cruises are sold each year in this country, with over 50% of those guests sailing from UK ports.  At the same time, British ports are becoming increasing popular with cruise passengers from overseas, bringing ever more in-bound tourism and supporting thousands of local jobs.  The cruise industry is a perfect example of maritime success, and shows just how much can be done with vision and enthusiasm.

I know too that the leisure marine and superyacht industry is another UK maritime success story. We have a strong boatbuilding heritage and we are rightly proud of our successful British boat brands which have built a world-wide reputation for great design, exceptional quality and constant innovation. It was pleasing to see that British Marine released their latest industry figures at the Boat Show that demonstrate the industry is returning to its pre-recessions levels, posting revenues in excess of £3bn.

And, the UK superyacht capability is a very important part of that success story. Over 250 British Marine member companies engage in the design, build, refit, supply chain and service provision of yachts over 24 metres. The UK possesses world class build and refit facilities; some of the world’s most renowned superyacht designers are British; much of the marine equipment and interior design that goes into superyachts built around the world is British supplied. We have some of the biggest names in superyacht brokerage; we lead the world in training superyacht captains & crew and London is the center for large yacht legal and insurance activity. It was no surprise therefore to see latest figures released at the Monaco Yacht Show last September reporting an 11.5% increase in superyacht related revenues. Congratulations on this success.

These are exciting times for the UK’s maritime sector, due in no small part to the Department of Transport that had the great wisdom and foresight to initiate the Maritime Growth Study back in 2014, recognizing that in the immediately preceding years there had been plenty of talk and not enough action.  British maritime was there to be gripped and shaken.

John Hayes MP was the DfT Minister who initiated the Growth Study and he is now back at the Department in this important ministerial position, and the role of Maritime Minister has rarely been more important.  Not only do we have the Growth Study recommendations to fulfill, but also we have Brexit to grasp, ensuring that we do not inadvertently throw away the baby with the bathwater, and exploit every opportunity for expansion and growth in the post-Brexit world.  Fortunately we have a  Minister who champions our maritime cause.

And rarely has there been a more communicative and collaborative relationship between Industry and Government, spawned by the launch of the Maritime Growth Study and brought to life by the commitment of Ministers, officials and leaders across the ports, shipping, marine manufacturing and services elements of the maritime industry.  The joint government/industry dialogue is a true partnership with shared goals and objectives and a strong desire to succeed. British Marine is now firmly positioned as an integral part of this wider industry dialogue which is enhancing the work that it routinely does with Government to represent your sector specific interests.

The Maritime Growth Study is built on five specific pillars – joined up industry, joined up government, an enabling and customer-focused ship registry, a commitment to maritime skills and career development and the active promotion of maritime both at home and, crucially, overseas.  But importantly these pillars underpin a whole which is far greater than the sum of the parts – that is the support and development of the whole of Britain’s maritime cluster through mutual help and a strong single voice.  The Growth Study, too, is a living document to which we have already added new emphases and subject matter, not least Brexit, and which is subject to regular review.

The Growth Study recognized the need for an industry promotional body which would also act as the Government’s primary interlocutor.  Maritime UK was poised to take on this role, having been established eight years ago as the “one voice” of the maritime sector, and it is very great honour for me to be its current Chair, at a time when it has been developed and recognised by Government as that promotional body that was envisaged in the Growth Study.

Maritime UK is now highly inclusive, properly funded and led by an active Board supported by a fully-manned secretariat.  In parallel, Government has made unprecedented moves to act as one through a new Ministerial Working Group, a Maritime Strategy Committee and a highly focused delivery team in the Department for Transport which works closely with the Treasury and the newly formed or reconfigured BEIS, DIT and DEXEU.  Industry and Government officials are in day-to-day contact and are co-creating a planned renaissance of Britain’s maritime cluster.

An early win has been to kick off the reform of the UK shipping registry, which began as a parallel project to the Growth Study and now sits firmly within it as Industry continues to act as adviser and interlocutor.  To drive this change, the MCA has already established the position of Ship Registry Director and most recently has announced the appointment of a non-executive chairman.  Both positions are designed to inject commercialism and change.  A dynamic and internationally renowned ship registry is a fantastic shop window for British maritime and encourages shipowners to look to this country for an end-to-end shipping services offer. I know that the Part 1 Register is important to your sector and we will all benefit from a more flexible and commercial approach from the MCA in this area.

Skills and career development are critical across the maritime sector, particularly in order to increase the number of trained seafarers available to come ashore to add maritime experience to industries ranging from ports to manufacturing to legal, insurance and classification services.  Project Ulysses has already identified the skill gaps we need to fill to prepare seafarers for coming ashore into those critical roles.  At the same time, our highly productive government/industry dialogue is allowing us to examine more openly and collaboratively how we can invest more in attracting and training more recruits to the maritime sector. The Maritime UK Skills Groups is looking at the skills needs across the marine manufacturing sector and supporting the considerable amount of work that is done by individual associations, particularly on apprenticeships.

Lastly the Growth Study focuses on promotion, most particularly the need to drive the export of UK-manufactured marine goods and the attraction of inward investment into shipping and infrastructure.  Attracting ships into UK ownership brings huge volumes of direct and indirect employment whilst infrastructure investment will increase the efficiency of our logistics chain at a time when Britain will need to export for more than ever before.  And in turn, we recognize that more exports and more trade are good for ports, which is good for jobs and local communities all around the coast of Britain.

So ladies and gentlemen, everything is beginning to go swingingly, and then along comes Brexit.  If ever we needed any more drive and purpose, this is it.  Suddenly the Growth Study recommendations have acquired far more importance and urgency.  Many things which we had taken for granted need fighting for and at the same time opportunities are growing before our very eyes.  And the good news is that through the close relationship between Government and Industry we are already well organized to tackle the issues.

The Growth Study, which of course preceded the Brexit vote, was intended to act as a catalyst for the renaissance of the British maritime sector, reaffirming its pre-eminence across the globe – an ambition which chimes with Brexit, you may say.  So we need get off to the right start by making sure that in the course of Brexit negotiations, we do not inadvertently give away some of the pillars of our current and future success. And we need to form our post-Brexit plans, ready for the time when we can more easily determine our own future.  And we must straightaway make a start on the things we should have been doing anyway, Brexit or not.

Maritime UK has published its Brexit manifesto, harmonizing with and bringing together the manifestos of its individual members – once again a single industry voice to Government.

The first immediate action is to give added urgency to the delivery of the Maritime Growth Study.  People are its first foundation – making sure that we have the right caliber of people, in the right quantities and with the right skills, to ensure that we have a world-beating maritime capability. 

At the same time we have to create that more attractive, globally attractive UK shipping register.  And we have to drive the maritime export agenda on two levels – firstly, we need to maximize the export and inward investment opportunity that UK maritime as a whole offers, from building ships, yachts and boats for customers across the globe to attracting far more ship ownership and management to Britain, and secondly, with 90% of the country’s trade being carried by sea, port and shipping investment is a strategic imperative in delivering post-Brexit prosperity.  In particular it is critical that we see the modernization of the infrastructure which connects our ports with Britain’s manufacturing and distribution hubs – an investment imperative easily on a par with airport expansion and high-speed rail. 

The second action is put maritime at the forefront of the Brexit negotiation strategy.  Most crucial is the unimpeded movement of goods through our ports.  In ports like Dover we see the most remarkable throughput of lorries moving between the UK, Ireland and the Continent, an incredible growth story since the lifting of customs controls 25 years ago.  There are no controls which impede this essential engine of trade. 

Assuming that we do not intend to cease trading with the whole of Europe, we must protect that uninterrupted flow of goods – we cannot entertain thousands of lorries parked up in our ports while they are checked, and witness Operation Stack times ten every day of the year.  So even if the UK leaves the Customs Union, we need to replicate the current position through political agreements and/or the creation of new processes and systems.

There is a similar imperative in the necessary movement of people.  We mustn’t allow any anti-immigration fervor in some parts of society from impeding in-bound and out-bound tourism which year after year bring ever more economic benefit to our country.  Nor should we impede the essential flow of highly skilled workers from abroad entering the UK to work in support of the growth of our maritime cluster – after all maritime is the most global of all industries, and any Little Englander mentality will be hugely to its detriment.

Finally, while the Government talks about a renaissance in our shipbuilding industries, let us remember that through the past decline in this sector, the UK continued to build world leading vessels, through its superyacht, leisure and small commercial boatyards.  We may never again build the biggest ships, but we can build the most technologically advanced.  This re-born and re-invigorated industry can play a major role at the heart of the Government’s new industrial strategy and can become a thriving export stream.  We urge Government to buy British and give our marine manufacturers every support towards and beyond Brexit.

Our post-Brexit goals are all about turning what initially appeared to be fearsome challenges into golden opportunities, clear of unnecessary restrictions and bureaucracy.  They are about revived exports, exponential growth in trade and a fast-growing ship register, supported by an enlarged and highly-training British workforce marching out across the globe to make our maritime cluster unassailable and the envy of the world.

The answer to the state of the industry question is that we are in very good shape across the breadth of the UK marine and maritime cluster and the superyacht is a flagship sector that can only benefit from the opportunities that we are all working on going forward.

In summary, our maritime sector is now in a good place to get to a much better place. We have as our foundation the Maritime Growth Study strongly focused on our Flag, our skills base and the promotion of our maritime goods and services. We have a joined up industry voice and a listening and collaborating government.   And we are now looking at how we adapt to a new political order, how we manage the massive change which it will entail and how we capitalize on the new opportunities which it will create.  These are energetic and exciting times for our industry, ladies and gentlemen, and I hope that we all thrive in them.

Thank you