Transport Secretary emphasises the partnership approach


Decarbonisation, partnership, diversity and funding were topics covered in a Q&A session with Mark Harper, the UK Secretary of State for Transport, at the start of yesterday’s LISW23 Headline Conference held at the IMO headquarters building.

Talking to Conference Chair Paddy Rodgers (pictured), Harper (right) said the key word that had emerged through during the many LISW events and discussions was ‘partnership’.

“As a Conservative, my natural inclination – demonstrated by the shipping industry – is that private industries tend to be well run,” said Harper.

During talks with the industry, it was clear that the sector doesn’t really want the Government ‘helping’ on the operational side, he said – “because it was very clear that it could deal with the operational side very well. The right relationship is for Government to work in partnership with the industry on the challenges we face.”

The industry knows that it has to decarbonise, said Harper. “The big question is, how do we do that to ensure that we have an [economically] vibrant industry?”

Decarbonisation is not just the environmental goal but also about making sure it is consistent with a profitable, thriving sector, he said. “Because that’s the only way we are going to do it.”

Harper highlighted the Department for Transport’s UK SHORE [UK Shipping Office for Reducing Emissions], set up earlier this year as an office dedicated to making maritime greener. Of the £206m of new funding through UK SHORE, £80m has just been allocated for ten vessel/port clean maritime projects, the winners of the Zero Emission Vessels and Infrastructure (ZEVI) scheme.
“There will be some carrots, but Government can’t fund all of it,” said Harper. However, he pledged to work with Claire Coutinho, appointed Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero last month, to make sure the required power supplies were provided to ports – a major issue in the drive for port/vessel electrification.

The challenges ahead will require much greater skills, said Rodgers – what is the UK thinking?
“I completely agree with that,” said Harper. The Skills Minister from the Department for Education has launched the Government’s shipbuilding skills package, and ministers from the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology have been talking about AI skills, he said.
“We are also talking about having a more diverse workforce – how we get the maritime sector to be much more attractive to younger people and get women into the industry.

“I have had a range of ministerial jobs, once as the minister for disabled people. One argument for having disabled people involved in the business is that it’s good CSR, but it is also to make sure you have access to the most talented people.

“There are lots of reasons why it’s a good idea to have a more diverse workforce. It is good for business and getting the most skilled people involved. If you ignore great big chunks of the population and workforce, you are not going to have the smartest people.”

Diversity of thought is important in all organisations, said Harper. “Whether government departments, political parties or corporates, they are effectively teams. They are only as strong as the team and the teams are strongest if you have diversity with different perspectives.”