The UK holds an enviable position as one of the world’s leading maritime nations. However, if this status is to be maintained, it is vital that the country sustains a forward-thinking approach. To aid that, Maritime UK has initiated a futures programme to establish the UK maritime sector's vision for the next generation.
The project will seek to understand the future shape of the UK maritime sector through the exploration of a broad range of drivers of change, ascertaining which areas will have the greatest impact. Then, having formulated a vision of what the future holds, the programme will establish what the sector needs to do to respond to and capitalise on such a scenario. Change factors that the programme will examine include urbanisation, water, climate change, convergence, demographics, food, oceans, poverty, energy and waste. The initiative will also make use of existing research, like the UK’s Government Office for Science’s Foresight project regarding the future of the sea, and outlook projects led by Maritime UK members — for example, British Marine’s futures project or the British Port Association’s.
“To best position the UK as a competitive, global maritime nation, it’s vital that we understand what future we will be competing in,” says David Dingle, Maritime UK’s chairman. “This ambitious programme will ensure that our companies are best-placed to prepare and shape that future, while demonstrating the UK’s position in world-leading maritime thought-leadership and research.”
In order to set the futures programme in motion, a series of workshops are being planned. With the UK government having set an open-door challenge for the country’s industrial sectors to come forward with proposals to transform their fields through sector deals, output from these events will also feed into the iterative development of a UK maritime sector bid. The first in this series of workshops is expected to take place towards the end of 2018.
Richard Westgarth, Head of Campaigns at BMT, a leading international design, engineering, science and risk management, is leading the programme. He believes that the UK maritime sector has experienced an attitude shift in recognising how rapidly the industry is evolving.
“We have skills shortages, we see trade changing and we’ve seen the impact of the potential of Brexit starting to come through,” he says. “I think there’s a real energy now within the industry from academia, companies and the sector is really take control of this and drive it forward. The UK government’s Maritime Growth Study and subsequent review paper have been key points driving that.”
The futures programme will start by focusing on future skills and then move on to other areas. The output from each workshop will help inform those that follow. The workshops will invite participants to identify the drivers for change for the UK maritime sector, pinpointing which change-causing factors will have the largest effect on industry and determining the potential extremes of that impact. From that, the participants will determine the main areas of opportunity for the future.
“We’re looking at a 2030 to 2050 timescale, so really from the macro level, rather than just focusing too quickly on where the short term sector opportunities might be,” he explains. “We also see it as broader than just the technology, such as unmanned ships or smart ships. Instead, it’s about the entire range of potential drivers.”
The futures programme is designed to sit alongside the government’s Maritime 2050 initiative, whose delivery plans will be agreed in partnership with industry.
By creating a vision for the future, Maritime UK will provide the UK with superior oversight of the industry, helping the country to sustain its position as a global leader on the world marine and maritime stage.