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UK launches Maritime 2050 strategy

The UK government has made technological innovation a key element of its newly published Maritime 2050 strategy, which will include the creation of a ‘Maritime Innovation Hub’ at an as yet unnamed port by 2030.

{mprestriction ids="1,2"}Maritime 2050 is the first long term national strategy for the sector, setting roadmaps as to how the government can work together with industry to support the growth of maritime in the UK, built around seven themes: technology, trade, environment, people, infrastructure, security/resilience and national competitive advantage.

‘Smart Port’ development is cited as a priority in the document, driven by the creation of new business models leveraging the benefits of digital and automated processes to maximise throughput of goods with seamless onward connections.

“Ports will adapt toward full supply chain integration, maximising land use for ancillary activities. Enhanced transparency and use of real time data will increase operational efficiencies, while pioneering cutting edge technologies such as 3D printing,” the strategy says.

The government has also pledged to legislate for a domestic framework for autonomous vessels, with the goal of attracting international businesses to perform testing in the UK’s territorial waters.

“We will support industry in developing and testing new technologies by funding flagship projects, and learning from other sectors like the automotive industry. The UK will be a vibrant hub of research and development. Shipping companies will benefit from a highly competitive register for technologically advanced and autonomous vessels,” the strategy states.

Replacing paper-based processes and transactions across the transport chain is another stated goal of the strategy, including the introduction of digital documentation for seafarers to streamline verification of required training and certification, and an exploration of the potential benefits of new technologies such as blockchain.

Full paperless governance of the maritime sector in the UK is expected by 2030, including the creation of a fully-digital UK Ship Register by 2025.

The UK says it also intends to lead efforts to set international standards at the IMO and ensure interoperability of systems, in anticipation of globally harmonised standards being in place by 2050 to govern a transparent data-driven ‘digital by default’ UK maritime space.

Technology is also central to the strategy’s goals of growing and upskilling the UK’s maritime workforce in the future. Future UK seafarers will be expected to transition easily between sea and shore-based roles, using transferable IT-based skills and supported by training programmes maximising the use of technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality.

The importance of science, technology and engineering subjects will increase as jobs become more skilled and data driven in response to new technology, the strategy notes, with industry roles likely to be multidisciplinary, and potentially requiring the ability to create, operate and maintain autonomous and technological systems.

“Mapping career paths and building professional development into training programmes will allow a proactive approach to career planning and support cross-sector mobility,” the document says.

“Better internet connectivity at sea would remove an existing obstacle to lifelong learning, while the application of technologies such as virtual reality could facilitate retraining in new systems as well as potentially change the way in which traditional training programmes are delivered.”

Cyber security is noted as an important consideration as development continues across these various areas of the sector, with the government pledging to offer its support to maritime businesses in maintaining robust defences.

“The onus is on industry to protect themselves and ensure resilience to cyber threats across the supply chain. However, this will be in lockstep with government, who will provide threat and risk assessments, regulation and guidance to ensure that collectively, the UK is a centre of excellence for the provision of maritime cyber security solutions,” the strategy says.

Chris Grayling, UK Secretary of State for Transport, said that the strategy reflected the UK’s desire “to be a global leader, promoting a liberalised trading regime that delivers maximum benefit for our maritime sector.”

“In doing so, we must take action now to ensure we are at the forefront of technological advancements, to transform and grow our maritime workforce and be bold and ambitious in progressing clean maritime growth. Underpinning this will be the delivery of maritime infrastructure that matches our future expectations,” he said.

The full 338 page strategy document is available for download here.{/mprestriction}

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