News: Maritime UK publishes priorities ahead of National Shipbuilding Strategy refresh

Maritime UK has set out its priorities ahead of publication of the National Shipbuilding Strategy refresh. 

The UK’s maritime industry has urged government to invest £1 billion in green technology and infrastructure to deliver the government’s promised ‘shipbuilding renaissance’. 

This is part of a new manifesto launched by Maritime UK, outlining the sector’s ambitions ahead of publication of the government’s refreshed National Shipbuilding Strategy. It is focused on five key areas: competitiveness, people, innovation, environment, and regional growth. 

The industry warns that plans must go far beyond a government “wish list” and instead detail decisive action to turn the tide on a shrinking shipbuilding industry. Maritime UK believes that can happen by putting decarbonisation at the heart of the strategy to revitalise UK shipbuilding. 

Ben Murray, chief executive of Maritime UK, said:

“Shipbuilding is crucial to the livelihoods of our coastal communities, and the future of the planet, with decarbonisation being impossible without greener shipping.

“The government must face up to these stakes and give the industry what it needs, which is a sea change, not a lifeboat.

“Only then can the government deliver on its promise to bring shipbuilding back home.”

At the heart of the manifesto is a plea for the UK government to procure its vessels at home and provide new financial schemes to generate a stable and consistent order book for shipyards, recognising fierce competition from other shipbuilding nations.  

The manifesto includes proposals for a government investment of £1 billion to spur the industry’stransition to net zero and create more than 74,000 jobs, including in developing ‘shore power’ charging points across the UK’s coast to power tomorrow’s Teslas of the seas, and advancing green shipping fuels such as hydrogen. 

The industry also calls for elements of the recently announced freeports package to be spread across the coast, benefiting maritime companies across the UK, rather than just those in the current sevendesignated coastal areas.

This includes enhanced capital allowances, faster planning processes and tax credits for research and development, all measures backed by the sector to increase competitiveness and investment in shipbuilding.

Proposals to boost innovation are also outlined in the manifesto, calling on government to co-invest in Maritime Research and Innovation UK (MarRI-UK). Made up of eight companies, including Babcock and BAE, as well as four universities, MarRI-UK aims to coordinate research and development across the sector and deliver transformational flagship projects on areas that include AI-powered shipping.

Tom Chant, chief executive of the Society of Maritime Industries, said:

“Through this revamped National Shipbuilding Strategy, we have an opportunity to address key priorities such as skills, decarbonisation and digitalisation within the industry. This is necessary if we are to realise our economic and environmental ambitions.

“The industry needs to be able to invest and compete on a level playing field with the rest of the world.  If the government is serious about shipbuilding and its long growth it needs to support the development of the right environment for private industry to invest.”

Measures to increase export support to small and medium-sized businesses are also backed by the sector. These would include grants for firms trying to break into new international markets, especially as they build back from the pandemic.  

The manifesto details further plans to boost shipbuilding, including restricting government contracts to UK-only firms; reintroducing the Home Shipbuilding Credit Guarantee Scheme, making it easier for firms placing orders at UK yards to obtain finance; and establishing a National Skills Academy for maritime, a platform that already exists in 15 other UK sectors, providing access to industry-specific and quality assured training.

Rob Stewart, commercial director at Aluminium Marine Consultants (AMC), said:

“Small vessels are the lifeblood of UK maritime so it’s important that small boat builders aresupported in this strategy refresh.

“We’re encouraged by the government’s focus on offshore wind and hope this will translate into increased demand for our vessels in the years to come.”

Maritime UK is the umbrella body representing the UK’s £46 billion maritime sector. Within Maritime UK, SMI acts for Britain’s maritime engineering and business sector.

AMC is the UK’s leading aluminium boat builder, based in the historic shipbuilding town of Cowes on the Isle of Wight.