Blog: Maritime UK’s 2021 Year in Review

By: Ben Murray

Chief Executive
020 7417 2837

Each Christmas Maritime UK writes a year-end review, highlighting key activity and developments for the sector. This year shows a considerable amount of progress by Maritime UK and its members, as well as in close partnership with government. We hope you enjoy looking back over the year and look forward to working together in 2022.

The year started with the appointment of Sarah Kenny as Maritime UK’s Chair, and Robin Mortimer as Vice-Chair. Their appointments came at an important time for the maritime sector, having left the European Union, seeking to build back better from COVID-19, and looking to accelerate work to meet our net-zero commitments with the key COP26 summit being held in the UK later in the year. It was clear that there was significant ambition going into 2021.

Ambition that would be realised by the sector pulling in the same direction and working closer together than ever. And that has happened, with greater focus and attention paid to the maritime industries than in recent times. Headlines include impressive activity at London International Shipping Week, COP26, and significant steps forward at the Budget and Spending Review. We have also seen growing cross-sector collaboration across Maritime UK’s National Priorities, well demonstrated through our publication of the Maritime 2050 stocktake report. That much progress is being realised by the industry, through programmes, is to be celebrated. We have the capacity and potential to be the change we wish to see, and we’re delighted that so many companies are getting directly involved with Maritime UK’s work programme.

2021 has also been a year in which the public’s awareness and understanding of the maritime sector have continued to grow. Whether ‘thanks’ to the Ever Given, seafarers being in the spotlight, or a greater understanding of the global nature of supply chains, Maritime UK has been determined to leverage that profile.

Maritime UK’s objectives are to champion and work to enable a thriving maritime sector. It does this through a combination of industry coordination and campaigning coupled with its programmes in each priority area, priorities agreed by all members of Maritime UK. The rest of this round-up will focus on this year’s activity in each area (Environment, People, Regional Growth, Competitiveness and Innovation).

We are delighted that two new national organisations have joined Maritime UK this year – The Workboat Association and Port Skills and Safety. It’s great to have both on the team.

Politics and Profile

We have seen the sector better aligning itself with the government’s agenda and benefiting from that – such as Global Britain, getting to net-zero or becoming a science superpower. One area that has cut through is on the sector’s response to levelling-up. Our mission has been framed by the sector coalescing around the Coastal Powerhouse initiative, and this year the sector came together to produce the Coastal Powerhouse Manifesto with the Local Government Association. As we approach a General Election, the sector’s ability to act on government priorities will be something we must continue to champion.

We’ve also seen the government better prioritising maritime, with several bespoke interventions for maritime – Freeports, the National Shipbuilding Strategy, Maritime Capability Campaign Office, Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition and Tonnage Tax reform to name a few.

For Maritime UK’s part, this has been achieved through very close working with the government, as well as targeted campaigning ‘on the outside’. We have developed, grown and strengthened our Maritime Parliamentary Caucus, increasing the depth of understanding across Parliament about the sector. We brief MPs and Peers every fortnight with our Parliamentary Bulletin and work with individual Parliamentarians ahead of debates, or with members of select committees ahead of inquiries. Over the past year, there have been 1,283 questions in Parliament on maritime, and over 1,200 references during debates by MPs and Peers.

During London International Shipping Week, we delivered a Westminster Hall debate on the sector, with the support of Kevan Jones MP. MPs helpfully pressed the government on the Maritime UK Spending Review bid, amongst other causes. This was bolstered by a Parliamentary Reception, hosted by City Cruises. Again, providing an opportunity to press the Spending Review campaign.

Maritime UK again delivered activity at both the Labour and Conservative Party conferences, with support from the Transport Secretary, and Shadow Transport and Environment Secretariates respectively. All three gave their backing to the Spending Review campaign. 

We also supported Paul Sweeney MSP in the establishment of a new Scottish Parliament Cross Party Group on Maritime, providing a valuable forum to ensure maritime interests are properly reflected at Holyrood. In 2022, Maritime UK will seek to replicate such forums across the UK.

In terms of media activity, we kicked off the year building up to the Chancellor’s Spring Budget, securing a City AM opinion piece underscoring the need for a £1 billion green maritime investment. Post-Budget, this was followed by an interview on Sky’s flagship business programme, Ian King Live, where Sarah Kenny discussed the industry’s response to the freeports announcement. And we subsequently secured nine regional radio interviews, speaking directly to the communities affected by the new policies. While the media space is notoriously competitive during the Budget, we secured opportunities both nationally and regionally, to ensure our messaging cut through the noise.   

We devised a media campaign combining the total number of expected jobs from freeports, 170,000, to tell a positive story about the industry’s growth, and its opportunities for young people. The result was eight pieces of coverage, including the page lead in the Sun’s business pages, a segment on Good Morning Britain’s regional bulletins, two regional BBC interviews, and regional print coverage including the Portsmouth News. And all stories appeared during the Easter break, where careers are traditionally front of mind.  

We also leveraged this campaign to build a relationship with FE News, a priority target for Maritime UK’s careers audience, which has seen us produce six thought leadership pieces highlighting the career opportunities across the sector, including in leisure, cruises, decarbonisation and supply chain – with each piece appearing as the leading article of the day online.

To support the launch of Maritime UK’s National Shipbuilding Strategy Manifesto, we arranged a media briefing attended by seven industry and political editors from national newspapers, resulting in immediate write-ups in the Mirror, Telegraph, Times and Express, underscoring the industry’s expectations and applying pressure on the government ahead of the NSS. And in the weeks after the briefing, both Alan Tovey from The Telegraph and Robert Lea at The Times reached out to us for follow-up pieces on shipbuilding. We also secured an opinion piece in Politics Home, in the name of Kevan Jones MP, highlighting the importance of shipbuilding for our economy, and the stakes of the upcoming NSS.

The total reach of coverage following the briefing was 63.9 million and attracted attention from the US’s biggest business radio station – Marketplace – who featured us in an interview and write-up highlighting the UK industry’s key asks of government.

During London International Shipping Week, we secured 75 pieces of coverage across international, national, regional and trade channels – reaching 2.17 billion readers online and 13.6 million on broadcast in total. 

Momentum was maintained from day one, kicking off with eight national and international broadcast interviews, including on the world’s biggest radio programme, BBC World Service’s Newsday, alongside print coverage including the business page lead in The Times.  Our response to the government’s flagship CMDC announcement was highlighted on GOV.UK, The Sun and The Express. And the launch of the Coastal Powerhouse Manifesto, even during a government reshuffle, led to six broadcast interviews, including a morning slot on Sky News, a package on BBC Look North after the six o’clock news, and a seven-minute-long segment on BBC South’s Sunday politics programme.

On issues ranging from the supply chain crisis and decarbonisation to coastal communities and industry diversity, we put LISW, and Maritime UK’s messaging, high on the news agenda. All ahead of the Spending Budget and Spending Review.


With the environment the most pressing challenge for the planet, 2021 was a year in which we needed to build upon the success of the 2020 Spending Review (£23m Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition), and the growing sense of urgency across the sector on the need to decarbonise.

To that end, we worked to bring companies together to make the most of the CMDC and to work closely with the government to try to secure further investment in the Autumn. We were clear that successful use of the first tranche of funding would be important to make the case for more.

Maritime UK and its members began working on proposals for 2021’s Spending Review early in the year and developed these with government departments – led by the Department for Transport.

In the run-up to the Autumn, we focused on different parts of the UK through our Road to Net Zero series. In doing so, we brought together a given region’s politicians from different tiers of government. Recent developments and ambitions were shared by companies and then the focus turned to how the region could benefit from further investment.

We were also keen to showcase positive activity as best as possible, so launched our #NetZeroMaritime Showcase, and share these case studies with Parliamentarians and others regularly. We were clear that to secure further support, we would need to show how the sector is moving forward, and the critical catalysing role that government funding could provide.

In parallel, the government were further defining how they would make progress toward their ten-point plan. We saw the publication of the Transport Decarbonisation Plan, which will initiate a series of detailed consultations next year, along with the Hydrogen Strategy and Net Zero Strategy. The latter of which confirmed that the CMDC would be extended – the key ask from our Spending Review campaign. At October’s Budget and Spending Review, the Chancellor confirmed that up to £300m would be available.

At London International Shipping Week we were delighted to announce the winners of the first CMDC.

With lots of different strands moving forward on decarbonisation, it has been important to have a single focal point for the sector. Maritime UK and its members have been working closely with the government to refresh the Clean Maritime Council so that it is the single place for industry and government to come together to develop route maps and provide guidance on the next steps. To give as coordinated and consistent view from the industry as possible, Maritime UK has refreshed its decarbonisation policy objectives.

Of course, COP26 provided an incredible moment to bring the sector together and to make clear that maritime has an important role to play in the decarbonisation story. We were very pleased to partner with the City of Glasgow College to deliver the International Maritime Hub, which hosted a packed programme of activity. Special thanks to our headline sponsor, CMB, who used the occasion to share their portfolio of hydrogen-powered vessels. COP also saw two maritime initiatives – Clydebank Declaration and Operation Zero. Maritime UK and its members will be working hard to make both a reality.


2021 was the year that Diversity in Maritime, led by Chrissie Clarke, turned one year old, celebrating its birthday in May with its first Annual Report. This year, we have seen the number of organisations committing to the Diversity in Maritime Pledges and Charter dramatically increase which has demonstrated the value of the Charter along with the range of associated initiatives and toolkits to ensure that maritime is diverse, inclusive and everyone has a sense of belonging.

In February, Diversity in Maritime welcomed its first sponsor, Aberdeen Harbour Board followed by Stena Line in October.

There has been a significant amount of activity across the programme and within each of the networks Pride, Ethnicity, Women and Mental Health. This year the Ethnicity in Maritime network launched the book club, which meets regularly throughout the year to discuss books that broaden the knowledge and understanding of race and the impact of racism. Another first was the launch of the Pride in Maritime Industry Roundtables, the first held at the end of Pride Month and closely followed by a live-streamed Roundtable during London International Shipping Week. The roundtables take discussions from the network meetings and make processes on how to ensure maritime is welcoming for the LGBT+ community.

During London International Shipping Week, the Women in Maritime Network held the first cross-transport summit which facilitated conversations on gender equality in transport, recognising the obstacles and opportunities in common between industries. In March, the Mental Health in Maritime Network launched the Mental Health in Maritime Pledge for organisations to commit to improving mental health provisions. The Pledge has now been signed by over 80 executives from across maritime and on World Mental Health Day the second Mental Health in Maritime national benchmark survey was also launched. Other new initiatives including the expanded Interview Pool, Speaker Bank and Creating a Culture of Care were launched and supported by a series of working groups. Plans for 2022 include the first Pride in Maritime Day, launching a Menopause Hub, our second Women in Summit and much more.

The Maritime Skills Commission, chaired by Professor Graham Baldwin, also celebrated its one-year birthday this July, marking the occasion with the release of the second annual report. The report included updates on progress to date including the Seafarer Cadet Review report and recommendations, as requested by the Maritime Minister in the Commission’s Tasking Letter.

The report also had a significant focus on green skills as responding to climate change is the greatest challenge of the age, and the maritime sector has a unique role to play in the decarbonisation process. Whilst there is a huge focus on technology, there is often less discussion on the skills required to enable the transition or a robust road map on how we ensure that is a just transition for those working in carbon-related industries. To start to unpick this in July, the Commission held its first evidence-based session on green skills and this was followed up with a forum at COP26 to understand what skills will be required to underpin the transition and to ensure workers can adapt and transfer from areas of decreasing employment. In September, at London International Shipping Week, the Maritime Skills Commission held its first educational showcase to discuss work to date – a recording can be found here

In October, the Commission released its second Annual Report which highlighted progress on the current Scheme of Work, designed to fulfil the objectives outlined in the Tasking Letter and next steps. The report can be read here. In December the Commission meet to discuss plans for 2022 and beyond which will include a refreshed Scheme of Work. If you haven’t listened to our Meet the Commissioner podcast series, you can access it here .

In January, we will publish our Careers and Outreach Programme Impact Report, which shows impressive activity. The programme, led by Lorna Wagner, will mark over 20,000 school children receiving direct careers guidance from industry colleagues through the industry ambassador scheme. During the year, Maritime UK delivered activity at National Careers Week and National Apprenticeship Week as well as a compelling programme of Continuing Professional Development sessions on different parts of the sector. Further highlights were the launch of a new careers video, a careers professionals’ briefing on the maritime sector in Scotland and careers events for job seekers and students in Plymouth and Liverpool. During London International Shipping Week 2021, we held a jobs and careers fair aboard HQS Wellington, engaging with over 300 school children. In November we launched a brand new public-facing careers website, which features an array of new resources including virtual tours, interviews, and information packs.

The Maritime Masters programme ran for the fourth year and culminated with the finalist reception at Clarksons Platou in October. An expert panel was assembled to challenge the students on their projects. This year’s winner was Badr Moutik from Liverpool John Moores University with his research on Carbon Negative Shipping for 2030. The programme exists to help to strengthen the links between the UK maritime sector and academia, to promote academic excellence amongst students and offer valuable research to maritime businesses. If you are interested in getting involved in 2023’s programme, click here, or contact Lorna Wagner.

Regional Growth

Working closely with our members and government the regional growth agenda has made significant progress this year, whether that be with the opening of the first freeports, the launch of the Coastal Powerhouse Manifesto at LISW21, or the delivery of our regional cluster development programme.

To support the launch of the Coastal Powerhouse Manifesto, we commissioned an opinion poll that found that coastal communities are set to lose at least 49 per cent of their young people, with the majority of 18-24-year-olds already planning on moving away. Jobs were cited as the overwhelming reason with 70% saying they would be more likely to stay if the right career opportunities were made available. 

The manifesto sets out proposals to boost connectivity to the rest of the country, extend freeports’ benefits to all coastal areas, install a shore power network across the coast to charge tomorrow’s Teslas of the seas and develop new skills in coastal communities, including digital skills. Taken together, they offer a credible package of economic growth to turn the tide on young people having to leave coastal areas.

In March, eight freeports were announced all over England, with the first, the Teesside freeport beginning operations on 19 November 2021. Freeports will benefit from incentives relating to customs, tax, planning, regeneration, infrastructure, and innovation. They are seen as being national hubs for global trade and investment in the UK, but also a key player in the regional growth agenda as they create jobs and regeneration. Furthermore, freeports can create hotbeds for innovation, which aligns closely with many of Maritime UK’s priorities. Maritime UK and its members welcome freeports but want as many of those benefits targeted toward the initial eight locations to be made available around the coast. That the Chancellor has made port-centric economic development such a priority is to be thoroughly welcomed.

The Regional Cluster Development Programme, led by Simon Eardley, has focused this year on supporting our existing network of regional cluster organisations in Merseyside (Mersey Maritime), the Solent (MUK Solent), the South West (MUK South West, including Cornwall Marine Network), Scotland through the Scottish Maritime Cluster and in the Humber region through Team Humber Marine Alliance. Engagement with a range of partners to deliver the establishment of new cluster organisations has also been a major focus with productive stakeholder discussions in the North East, including with the Mayor of Tees Valley, and local government and academic colleagues in the East of England and South East.  In addition, the Belfast Maritime Consortium continues to develop its cluster offer, on the back of its major Strength in Places bid project which is centred around the creation of the world’s most advanced high-speed zero-emission passenger ferry.

The Maritime UK Regional Council continues to meet regularly and develop from strength to strength with regular engagement across government departments and with other stakeholders including the Department for Transport, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and the Department for International Trade. Comprehensive updates are given at these quarterly meetings of all the activity that is taking place around our coastal powerhouse and is captured online. From leading major innovation projects to celebrate and showcasing all that our regions have to offer, the depth and range of this activity are inspiring for all to see. To read more about what our regional partners have been engaged with, click here.

Finally, for a quick tour of each region of the United Kingdom, visit the link to videos produced for London International Shipping Week which showcase their most recent updates and focus on just what the maritime sector means for our island nation.


Without a doubt, the most significant development in boosting the UK’s competitiveness as a maritime centre has been the reforms to Tonnage Tax announced by the Chancellor. There is work to be done on the detail of these reforms, and Maritime UK and its members will be working hard to make sure they deliver as fully as possible for the sector.

But there has also been progress elsewhere. In September, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency launched its new UK Shipping Concierge Service, a one-stop shop for ship owners and operators wishing to base themselves in the UK.

There has also been progress in getting the right support in place to boost the exports of maritime products and services. Maritime is now one of the Department for International Trade’s top priority sectors, and the Spending Review helped unlock additional support to back UK companies wanting to grow their exports.

In 2019 Maritime UK and the DIT jointly published a five-year plan for maritime exports and investment. With this new funding and prioritisation, it is hoped that the certainty and foresight that the plan sought to provide will now become a reality.

In November, the UK government published the updated Export Strategy. This document sets out how government and business can work together to increase the UK’s exports. Maritime was mentioned favourably on several occasions, including by the trade secretary in the foreword, committing “to generate an innovative and internationally competitive UK maritime offer, leveraging major UK strengths such as defence and low carbon technologies”.

2021 was in many ways the year in which the UK found its feet on Free Trade Agreements. Maritime UK has worked to ensure that the sector’s interests are as well reflected within the FTAs as possible. The most recent example is the UK-Australia FTA. It’s the most comprehensive FTA for the UK since leaving the EU, offers a gateway to the fast-growing Indo-Pacific, unlocks an estimated £10.4bn worth of additional trade while ending tariffs on UK exports. There is also a very welcome International Maritime Services Chapter. There remains an opportunity for colleagues to engage with negotiations on India, Canada, and Mexico.

During London International Shipping Week, Sarah Kenny co-chaired a roundtable with Minister for Investment, Lord Grimstone. The Minister has asked to follow up with Maritime UK in the new year to explore further interventions or such support, following the reforms announced to Tonnage Tax, to attract further investment into the sector.

Finally, on the National Shipbuilding Strategy, there has been a particular effort to ensure that the Strategy Refresh includes a new Home Shipbuilding Credit Guarantee Scheme. We understand that further consultation will take place on this in the New Year.


Earlier in the month, we were delighted to see that the UK has been ranked as the number one country in the world for blue technology, showing the strength of innovation in the UK maritime sector. This is a real step forward on the road to our Maritime 2050 ambitions. The innovation pillar demonstrates the UK’s contribution to sustainable ocean technology research and development, including expenditure, patents, and start-ups. The report cites that the UK is ranked as number one due to its “blue technology ecosystem and its leadership position in offshore renewable energy facilities, which includes the world’s largest offshore wind farm, a 50-megawatt facility off the coast of Aberdeenshire.

The Maritime UK Autonomous Systems Regulatory Working Group (MASRWG) delivered its sixth conference at 30 Park Street in January and published its latest guidance in November. The seventh conference is being held virtually in January.

The Maritime UK Technology and Innovation Group (TIG) has built upon the success of last year with a much more comprehensive sector funding portal.

The first in a series of new national innovation workshops, led by Sheldon Ryan, was hosted in November, with a focus on green propulsion for small vessels. We are pleased to learn that several new partnerships are being formed because of the session.

New work has begun on facilitating connections between maritime businesses and private capital and will result in a series of events in 2022 to bridge the gap between cutting-edge innovation and an investor community increasingly focused on ESG considerations.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is to start working with each regional cluster to help hone their innovation focus and then champion those interests within government.

Maritime Research and Innovation UK have had a good year, welcoming new members, publishing its report on Smart Shipping Technology and announcing the winner of the ‘Smart Maritime Land Operations’ funding call.

Finally, at the Spending Review, UK Research and Innovation’s budget was increased, and we’re pleased to see that Innovate UK is growing its team of maritime specialists.  

In closing, 2021 has been a year of tremendous progress for the sector. I’d like to thank all our members and sponsor partners for their hard work in pursuit of our common objectives.

Special thanks to the Maritime UK team for all your hard work: Chrissie, Simon, Lorna, Sheldon, Harvey and Steve. Thanks to Paul and Linn, who both left Maritime UK this year, for all their hard work too.

Thanks too to our government colleagues. That so much has been achieved this year is due to the strength of the partnership between the sector and government. Let’s build on 2021 over the next twelve months by working closer and smarter. For our part, Maritime UK is the sector’s cross-sector voice and collaboration vehicle, and we’re ready to work with anybody sharing our mission. Enjoy the break and see you on the other side!