Shipping Minister Stephen Hammond MP has just returned from a Greek-British Shipping Forum where he addressed Greek businesses. Here he writes, exclusively for Maritime UK, on the success of the event and the importance of Britain’s growing shipping industry.
I was pleased to be invited to give the opening speech at the Greek-British Shipping Forum in Athens on Monday, alongside the Greek Maritime Minister Mr Mousouroulis. The visit was a great opportunity for me to meet key players in the Greek maritime world and to further strengthen ties between our two great shipping nations. Greece is an important customer for our maritime services sector, predominantly based in the City of London. I am an evangelist for UK business and reassuring Greek clients that with our quality flag, attractive tonnage tax regime, strong competitive ports expert maritime services and vibrant maritime training programmes, together with a stable regulatory framework make the UK is a great place to do business. And, let’s not forget, that the Greenwich Meridian quite literally makes us the centre of the shipping world – our central time zone means we can do business with both sides of the world in the same working day.
We are in a global race, and nowhere is that more apparent than the shipping industry. The UK has a proud maritime history and it is a sector that remains of key importance today, not only through shipping and ports but also the maritime professional and business services sector on which the industry relies. The City of London is rightly recognised around the world as a vital hub for these services.
London International Shipping Week in September will give the UK maritime sector a chance to shine, showcasing all it can offer to businesses thinking of locating their operations in the UK or making use of its renowned maritime services. It will remind the world how great British shipping really is.
Shipping is big business here in the UK – it is a sector already worth £14bn per year to the economy and most importantly, it is a sector that is steadily growing, despite the challenges facing businesses at home and abroad.
Gross tonnage has more than trebled on the UK shipping register over the past decade and London remains the largest maritime centre in the world for professional, business and financial services. Clearly the UK is keen to hold its leading position and stay on course in a world of increasingly strong global competition, particularly from the Far East. It will come as a surprise to nobody that the UK government sees shipping as an engine for growth and we will do what we can to promote it at every given opportunity.
The contribution of the maritime industry to the life and economy of the UK is fully appreciated at the highest levels of Government. If the maritime industry is to keep growing, it is vital that we continue to work in close partnership with this globalised and fleet footed industry. To this end, I have established a body of senior representatives from across Government and industry with a clear focus on maximising growth and opportunities while maintaining a stable fiscal and regulatory environment. This partnership is already bearing fruit, fostering a closer and more co-ordinated partnership with both shipping and the wider maritime industry.
This is a sector not just steeped in history, but with a very promising future and I would encourage our overseas partners to join the industry in London in September to find out how they might ride this wave.
I hope that my presence in Athens underlines how important this Government knows the maritime and shipping sector is, and I hope to welcome back many from the Greek shipping world to do business in London.
This article is the latest in a series of posts written for Maritime UK by political figures. All guest articles express the opinions of the author.