©Rob Sturges

The UK government has outlined plans to develop the country as a “global test bed of emerging technology, enabling it to capitalise on the economic potential of maritime innovations”.

A 338-page document, Maritime 2050 – Navigating the Future, was published yesterday afternoon which includes proposals to establish “an innovation hub at a UK port by 2030, look at ways to clean up emissions from the industry and build on the world-class training already offered to seafarers”.

The Department for Transport also said it would look to introduce legislation to allow for the testing of autonomous vessels in UK waters.

“The Maritime and Coastguard Agency is looking at what is needed to ensure the safety of these and other ships,” it said.

“This will set the UK as the best place to trial this technology, which will then attract international business and investment, providing a boost to the economy.

“For the first time the maritime sector has a real long-term strategy, setting out what government and industry will do to position the UK as the world’s leading maritime nation over the coming decades in an increasingly competitive global context,” said Harry Theochari, chairman of Maritime UK.

“There are monumental opportunities for our sector – whether in technology, coastal economic development, attracting more maritime business to our shores or for the people that underpin our success.

“The global ocean economy will double in value to $3trn by 2030. Competitor maritime nations are hungry for the prize, and Maritime 2050 will ensure that the UK is best-placed to capitalise.”

He added: “The task of turning these ambitious recommendations into reality rests on the strength of partnership between industry and government. Industry is committed to delivery.”

Tim Morris, chief executive of UK Major Ports Group, said: “Its welcome to see the government acknowledging the value and success of the UK’s ports, ports which handle 95% of all the UK’s trade in goods. Setting out a long-term vision for the UK’s maritime sectors is a positive step forward.

“The recommendations around boosting the potential for ports to add to the £600m they already invest each year, growing the UK’s ability to trade with the world and – crucially – boosting jobs and prosperity in our coastal communities are particularly welcome and potentially transformative.”

UK Chamber of Shipping chief executive Bob Sanguinetti added: “We know the UK already has a world-class maritime offer, but this robust and forward-thinking strategy sets out clear ambitions to enhance that offer further still.

“There are immense opportunities out there for the maritime sector, not least in the huge technological revolution that is well under way.”

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