The Netherlands and the United Kingdom are both seafaring nations and North Sea neighbors. We share a significant relationship spanning many centuries of trade and investment, and have a reputation when it comes to ship-building, navigation, maritime technology, port and logistics and innovation. Building on our backgrounds as hubs of maritime excellence, we envisage a greener, smarter and more sustainable future.

Image: ©Dutch Embassy

The UK maritime sector includes the shipping industry, ports, maritime business services, engineering and the leisure marine industry. It is a substantial contributor to the UK economy accounting for a total of £46.1 billion in turnover, £17 billion in direct Gross Value Added (GVA), and directly supporting around 220,100 jobs in 2017.

The UK has a successful and well-renowned shipping industry and the second largest port industry in Europe. With 95% of all UK imports and exports passing through British ports  –  including 25% of the UK’s energy supply and 48% of the country’s food supplies  –  the UK maritime sector plays a strategic role in facilitating trade and prosperity in the UK. There are 120 commercial ports, of which the top 20 ports account for 88% of the total freight traffic. It is estimated that ca. £500bn of trade passes through UK ports each year. The UK maritime business services industry is strong and integrated, offers a ‘one-stop shop’ for legal, arbitration, insurance, P&I, shipbroking and finance services, and directly contributes £2bn to the UK economy. The UK has a reputable marine engineering industry, with its intelelctual capabilities and physical infrastructure being adapted to new markets, such as offshore renewable energy, and to new customer needs. The UK enjoys a globally significant leisure marine industry, with a total revenue of £3.12 billion in 2017, over 30% which accounts for exports.

The UK prides itself on its long-standing status as a world-leading maritime centre and intends to remain competitive as a global maritime leader (especially in areas such as technological and environmental innovation, and in high quality maritime business services) and a maritime standard bearer on the international stage. The UK Government’s bold ambitions are reflected it its comprehensive and wide-ranging Maritime 2050 strategy published in January 2019.

The current challenges facing the sector include historically high global shipping costs, decarbonisation of the sector as a part of net zero targets, and ship-building and naval procurement. Key trends influencing the UK maritime sector include the emergence of new disruptive technologies (such as artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain and digitalisation), navigating through a wide array of economic and operational disruptions as a result of the global pandemic and Brexit, as well as addressing the STEM skills shortage and imporoving workforce diversity (especially around women’s representation as only 4% of all the UK certified officers active at sea are female).

Opportunities in Maritime

There are opportunities and developments in the areas of sustainability and clean growth, technology and innovation, as well as safety and security.  We would like to highlight the following ones:

Technology and Innovation: Developing a competitive advantage in Hydrogen production technologies, Ammonia production technologies, Onboard batteries, and Electric engines.

Sustainable Shipping and Clean Growth Opportunities: Exploring solutions to decarbonise the maritime sector, including energy transition for efficiency and reducing emissions as well as fuel development and testing. Industry players are increasingly embracing low-sulphur, alternative green and renewable fuels.

SMART Ports: Capitalising on the benefits of new digital and automated processes as well as improving connectivity and infrastructure security through digitalisation and blockchain technology.

Autonomous Vessels: Determining the viability, success and safety of autonomous vessels in this fast-emerging sub-industry. Exploring how technology can be utilised in the most cost-efficient way and how to make the most of the technology already used in other sectors -  e.g.  how fusion sensors that are already used in autonomous cars and drones can be adapted to maritime technologies.

Freeports: Recreating port areas as economic clusters by implementing free ports.

Opportunities in Offshore Wind: Exploring solutions in clean, renewable energy and protection of coastal and marine environment.

Joint Research & Innovation Projects (including Horizon Europe): Exploring how close collaboration in clusters of industry and academia working with government can create synergies.

Image: ©Dutch Embassy

How can the Economic Network help you?

To help you find your way, the Netherlands Business Support Office (NBSO) in Manchester has written a report on opportunities in the UK maritime sector. It answers frequently asked questions and provides a starting point for companies who would like to get to know the market better. Please contact Els Steiger if you would like pre-register for a copy of the full report or if you have any specific questions about the sector. Please follow our LinkedIn page Netherlands Business Support Office Manchester for the latest sector developments and business opportunities.