News: Opinion poll confirms 'seablindness' is a myth

UK politicians and the general public have demonstrated overwhelmingly that they recognise shipping as the biggest mover of the nation’s imports and exports, according to a new study commissioned by the UK Chamber of Shipping.

Leading pollster ComRes surveyed 2,026 members of the British public and 127 UK MPs during the first four months of this year. Respondents were asked to name the mode of transport that carries the largest proportion of import and export cargo to/from the UK.

Some 87% of MPs and 84% of the public knew that the answer is shipping, disproving the belief that people do not understand shipping’s importance to the UK’s trading economy.

The UK’s major ports handled 473.5 million tonnes of freight during the year 2016, according to most recent statistics from the Department for Transport (DfT)[1]. Some 95% of the UK’s international trade is moved by sea.

Results from politicians

Politicians from Labour and the Scottish National Party (SNP) are the most likely to know that shipping carries the greatest proportion of the UK’s import and export freight, according to the study’s findings.

All of the SNP politicians surveyed showed familiarity with shipping’s role, followed closely by 91% of Labour respondents. Perhaps surprisingly, a smaller percentage of Conservative MPs demonstrated this knowledge (82%).

Younger politicians (those born since 1960) and those who have recently taken office displayed the greatest proportion of sea-awareness, the data shows, coinciding with the UK Chamber’s recent efforts to raise the shipping industry’s political profile.

Results from the general public

Men displayed slightly more familiarity with shipping than women, with nearly nine in ten men (87%) answering correctly, in contrast to around four in five women (81%).

The findings, however, highlight that more than can be done to increase sea-awareness among young people. That being said, three-quarters (73%) of those aged 18-24, the youngest group in the study, knew that shipping is the UK’s most important cargo-mover. In contrast, just over nine out of ten people (91%) in the oldest group of respondents (aged 65+) were sea-aware.

UK Chamber’s response

Guy Platten, CEO of the UK Chamber of Shipping, said of the study:

“The findings confirm that we can forget about so-called ‘seablindness’ – it just does not exist.  It is clear that the public and our politicians have a deep-rooted sense of shipping’s importance to our trading economy. 

“It is for us – not just at the UK Chamber but the whole industry – to turn that goodwill into tangible change that will make the UK a more competitive place to do maritime business before and after the UK leaves the European Union.”

David Dingle CBE, chairman of Maritime UK, added:

“This opinion poll shows without doubt that shipping is in the minds of the public and our politicians. The public trusts us with everything from their food to their clothing to their holidays. Our challenge is to ensure that when they think of UK industry, they think of maritime business as much as they do financial services or car manufacturing.

“The more they understand the UK’s reliance on shipping, the more opportunity we will have to work with government to deliver a world-class business environment, encourage more investment and more jobs for the country as a whole.”