As some of you may know, my first proper job back in the 1980s, was in the ports industry and it’s an area I have retained an interest in ever since. Indeed, if I had ever been an MP I’d love to have been Shipping Minister! So I was intrigued to learn that last night, Maritime UK, an organisation made up of 65 of the biggest names in the industry held a dinner where discussions were held about how the industry should ramp up its lobbying in the coming weeks over the Strategic Defence & Security Review. There is concern in the sector that, amidst the talk of the cost of Trident and carriers, one of the most important functions of the Navy – ie protecting UK trade – is being forgotten. Energy and trade security are almost as important as national security.
1) Everything from the energy that lights and heats our homes, to the food and goods we buy on the high street, is imported by sea.
2) Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), imported by sea, provides a rapidly increasing proportion of our energy supply – 35% by 2030
3) The UK flag fleet has grown by 530% since 2000
4) The growth in the UK commercial fleet contrasts starkly with the shrinking global footprint of the Royal Navy, whose primary purpose is to safeguard our trade and security.
5) British ships carrying our energy supplies, medical supplies, food and other goods, regularly pass through treacherous stretches of water, such as the Gulf of Aden. A strong and viable navy is vital to protect them and ensure those goods reach the UK
If this sounds like a lobbying pitch for British shipping, that’s because it is. And I hope Maritime UK, the Chamber of Shipping and the UK’s port’s sector get their lobbying efforts together to ensure that the sector is fully plugged into whatever consultations are being held during the SDSR. Because if they don’t, and the threats to our merchant shipping are ignored, it won’t just be the shipping and ports sector that will suffer. It will be the entire economy.