Speech: Sarah Kenny's remarks at Maritime UK Week Reception

Cutty Sark

Maritime UK Chair, Sarah Kenny OBE, delivered the following remarks at the Maritime UK Week Reception, held at the Cutty Sark, Greenwich, on 11 October 2022.

Thank you very much, Paddy, for those words, and for hosting us here this evening.

Good evening, ladies, and gentlemen. It is wonderful to see so many friends, colleagues and partners here tonight.

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Maritime UK Week Reception at the stunning Cutty Sark, right at the heart of Maritime Greenwich.

This is a week designed to celebrate the maritime industries,

To engage the public,

And shine a light on the latest developments and opportunities for maritime.

I think it’s very appropriate that we’re meeting this evening at the Cutty Sark.

A ship was once known as the fastest in the world, a ship that held that record for ten years.

To be the fastest in the world, beating every other ship, engineers and naval architects pushed the boundaries of technology and applied innovation to be the best.

You can change the era, you can change the materials, and you can change the shape of the global economy, but one thing remains constant.

That to win, to grow and to lead, we must innovate.

And in the third decade of the twenty-first century, I believe that to compete and win globally, maritime businesses must collaborate. That’s what Maritime UK is all about.

Relaunched after the Maritime Growth Study in 2016, Maritime UK is the umbrella body and collective voice for the sector.  

Bringing together the shipping, ports, engineering, leisure, and professional services industries, our members are trade associations, regional clusters, institutions, and social partners across maritime.

We come together to make more progress on the shared objectives than we could alone.

Now, the key framework and guide for us all is Maritime 2050.

A joint industry-government strategy to ensure that we’re the most competitive maritime nation globally by 2050.

And, thanks to colleagues and partners here tonight, I’m pleased that it’s working.

And I’ll touch on some of the key developments and wins in a moment.

This week is all about shining a spotlight on the latest developments in the maritime sector and engaging people across the UK with the world of maritime.

There is also a programme of events to bring maritime professionals together to help make progress on key issues like sustainability, innovation, diversity, and inclusion in the sector.

Thank you to everyone who plays their part this week.

That thousands of school children and members of the public are experiencing our sector first-hand this week is fantastic. We often bemoan a lack of understanding and recognition for maritime, and this week is playing a fundamental role in changing that.

The past two years have seen significant activity and progress.


The establishment of the UK Shipping Office for Reducing Emissions,

The launch of the new National Shipbuilding Strategy,

The £206m Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition,

A successful London International Shipping Week,

Major maritime announcements at COP26,

Reforms to the UK’s Tonnage Tax regime,

An uplift in government funding for cadet training.

And, particularly close to my heart, the UK was ranked the world’s number one globally for blue technology in December last year.

Progress we should recognise.

As we look to the future, we can be proud of our record and the contribution that maritime makes:

Enabling 95% of our trade, maintaining supply chains and ensuring energy resilience,

Supporting over 1.1 million jobs,

Turning over £116 billion – more than air and rail combined,

Paying 30% more than the national average,

Delivering 45% more productivity than the national average,

Making a unique contribution to the economies of coastal communities, where ports, invest over £600 million of private capital each year.

A major, productive, and growing sector that we should all be proud of,

Forecast to double in size globally to £3 trillion by 2030, maritime should also be at the heart of the government’s new growth agenda.

From driving economic growth, ensuring energy security, responding to climate change, strengthening defence, and levelling up, ours is a sector that has a strong role to play.

And as one of the primary sectors within the government’s ten-point plan for a green industrial revolution, we want to lead the world in developing, deploying, and exporting green maritime technologies. Just as the UK fights for international regulation for this most international of sectors.

The government has provided a very welcome start here in the form of the CMDC, but to reach our climate targets, this needs to scale up.

We can scale up the £600m of private investment ports make in their communities each year, by building upon the freeports programme and making targeted pro-investment reforms to the business environment.

And in an increasingly competitive global maritime environment, we want the government to take forward our recommendations to enhance the City of London’s pre-eminent position as the world’s global maritime capital.

We must also speed up delivery of the fantastic National Shipbuilding Strategy to ensure the UK’s position as a world-leader in high-value shipbuilding, marine manufacturing, design, and technology.

And as the industry is making great progress to attract talent to our sector. We want government to review the apprenticeship levy and get more maritime qualifications approved.

Taken together, these represent a plan to grow one of the UK’s most productive sectors and boost the country’s competitiveness.

We are ready to work with the government to make that happen. 

And I’m pleased that our new Programme for Government, launched this week, and developed with Maritime UK’s members, has already been so well received by Ministers and Shadow Ministers alike.

As a sector, we are clearer than ever about what we need from government, and we’re truly seeing that ‘one voice’ function working. But there is also much that we, those of us here tonight, have the capacity and ability to do ourselves too.

That’s what Maritime 2050 is all about. Establishing a shared heading and updating the shorter-term route maps regularly.

Allow me to give an example from last night’s Maritime Skills Commission reception.

Understanding how skills requirements will change as we accelerate toward net zero is as important as understanding the new fuels and infrastructure requirements.

Whilst progress is being made through UK Shore on technologies, within the MSC, we’re joining the dots and making progress on the skills dimension. Thanks to a new partnership with Cornwall Marine Network to establish our new Green Skills programme.

For me, that’s why I’m so positive about Maritime 2050 and how it is working.

We have a shared heading and framework within which to make progress, and to do so in a joined-up way.

Whilst strong progress is being made, we must scale up and accelerate delivery. Maritime UK is working on a new delivery model with the Department for Transport, and this will bring together Maritime UK member organisations and government departments to oversee recommendation delivery and prioritise future action. Companies and partners in the member community will have a direct link, and opportunity to engage through consortia and cohorts of partners.

Just one example of that is the brand-new Maritime Leaders’ Forum, delivered in partnership between Maritime UK and Trinity House.

The forum will convene quarterly and provide a space for senior executives to discuss progress toward Maritime 2050, share best practices and start forming collaborations. Our first session is on 21 November and focused on decarbonisation.

A further example is the work that Maritime UK is leading as part of the National Shipbuilding Strategy on Centres of Excellence.

With the profile of maritime rising, more and more partners are wanting to get involved in the sector, particularly on R&D.

So we need to rationalise that landscape, provide clarity to industry and government, and ensure the most effective use of the limited resource.

The work can offer a maritime sector-wide framework that makes sense and delivers a UK PLC approach to our innovation ecosystem.

To do so, we will need your help. We’ll need to see more collaboration and perhaps a consolidation of initiatives. But we’ll win as a result.

Friends, so much progress is being made, and it’s right that we shout about that.

The Maritime UK national awards are providing a fantastic platform to showcase the very best of our sector each year. We had a fantastic evening in Glasgow back in March, and we’re excited to be in Hull next March.

These awards will be bigger and better than ever, and I’m very pleased to say that tickets for the evening are now on sale. Applications will be open very soon.

Before I close, I want to say a special thanks to Maritime UK’s members for their commitment and support, to government colleagues for their partnership, and to our generous sponsors. In particular, to the Connected Places Catapult for being our Gold Sponsor for Maritime UK Week 2022.

So, this week is an opportunity to connect, engage and to grow. Together, we are making real progress, and we are seeing a much better understanding of our sector. Let’s do more. Let’s work together, let’s scale up, let’s focus on delivery and let’s accelerate toward our Maritime 2050.

Thank you.