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Maritime sector calls for £2bn to decarbonise ‘world-leading’ industry

Britain’s maritime industry is calling for a big increase in Government investment to help the UK lead the way in decarbonising the sector.

Maritime UK, which represents the industry, has used the start of London International Shipping Week on Monday to ask the Government to increase its annual funding for the sector to £2 billion, matched by contributions from the industry.

Chris Shirling-Rooke, Maritime UK’s CEO, said the money would help the industry decarbonise by developing green fuels, port infrastructure and new types of technology to reduce carbon emissions.

He told the PA news agency: “If we are going to decarbonise, we are going to have to work with Government and Government is going to have to work with industry.

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“We’ve come up with these ideas that have a good chance of decarbonising the industry quickly.”

Artemis Technologies
UK-based Artemis Technologies has developed an electric, zero emissions ‘flying’ boat, built in Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

As well as decarbonising Britain’s shipping industry, Mr Shirling-Rooke said the UK’s maritime expertise provided an opportunity for exporting new technology to the world.

Shipping is responsible for around 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than air travel, and the industry is estimated to need 2-3 trillion US dollars to decarbonise.

In March 2022, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced the £206 million UK Shipping Office for Reducing Emissions (UK-Shore) programme to focus on accelerating the technology necessary to decarbonise the domestic maritime sector.

Mr Shirling-Rooke said: “We can build and do build some of the most advanced vessels in the world, so it’s not beyond the wit of man that we can dig into this and create more.

“It was in our lifeblood as a nation and it can be again with the next generation of youngsters inspiring the industry.”

London International Shipping Week (LISW), which runs from Monday, is intended to provide a showcase for green shipping, including a demonstration by a new zero-emission “flying” boat built in Belfast and developed by UK company Artemis.

The Government is also expected to use the week to announce the winning bids for a £80.4 million green shipping technology fund, with Transport Secretary Mark Harper set to visit Artemis’s boat.

Artemis CEO Iain Percy, who won two Olympic gold medals for sailing, said the UK should make the most of its competitive advantage in shipping before businesses were tempted elsewhere.

He said: “Don’t try and do everything badly. We have an advantage here and green technology, it’s quite cheap to test now because we’re an island nation.

“That gives us an opportunity that will close quite fast if investment doesn’t come.

“Obviously there’s huge, aggressive investment in the US and Europe. If we don’t at least pick some areas where we are going to lead and have competitive advantage, we are going to fall behind.”

Mr Shirling-Rooke said he was optimistic about the future of the sector, likening it to a football team that was “getting our mojo back” after a decades-long lull.

He said: “So often we see decarbonisation as it’s a real problem, it’s a real challenge, we’re going to have to change.

“We do have to change, but it’s a real opportunity. We have the natural resources, we have the technology, we still have in maritime a world-leading industry, so it makes quite a strong argument to Government.”

A DfT spokesperson said: “We are making the biggest ever government investment in UK commercial maritime to help decarbonise our maritime sector through £206 million from the UK Shipping Office for Reducing Emissions.

“We’re pleased to be revealing the winners of our £80 million zero emission vessel and infrastructure fund (Zevi) at the start of London International Shipping Week, as we continue to work with industry to pioneer new technologies, create jobs, and grow the economy.”