A call to rebuild Britain as a great maritime power received a rapturous reception at a Maritime Nation event at the 2016 Conservative Party conference.
Admiral Lord West of Spithead urged the Government to invest in more ships for the Royal Navy and increase the size of the UK’s merchant fleet.
In a passionate speech, the former First Sea Lord, detailed how Britain’s rise to global prominence had been built on maritime strength and that investing in maritime was key to the country’s future prosperity.
Admiral Lord West said: “We are an island nation. Ninety five per cent of the nation’s trade in goods comes in by sea. The seas are the sinews of global trade. This is an area where we have traditionally excelled and should now look to do so again. Maritime should be the key foundation of our country’s future.”
Branding the current fleet-strength of the Royal Navy as “ridiculous - plainly not enough to do the job”, Lord West urged the Government to build more ships and back Britain’s maritime industries. “Decline is a choice, it is not inevitable,” he said.
“With our current fleet there are significant question marks around whether we would again be able to mount an operation such as we did to the Falklands and that has serious consequences for our country.
“We still have world class maritime industries and services in London but shipping is the most cut-throat industry there is and if we don’t look after them and invest in the sector, they’ll leave. It can happen.”
Backed by Associated British Ports and the Port of Dover, Maritime Nation is a campaign to raise awareness of the vital contribution of the UK marine and maritime sector.
The campaign builds on three principles: 1) Ports and maritime are critical for UK trade; 2) Britain should build on its strengths as a maritime nation and 3) Britain should have a global trading outlook.
Tim Waggott, Chief Executive, Port of Dover, said: "We have a simple message. We are an island. 95% of the nation's goods move by sea. The UK's ports are the key link providing business with access to European and global markets. In a new world it is our international gateways that can ensure our trading island nation can maintain and enhance its global reach. As the industry for everyone, we can and must keep Britain trading and keep people and goods moving."
James Cooper, ABP Chief Executive, said: “This is an issue that clearly transcends party politics and it is great to see the message receive such an enthusiastic reception at the conference. The UK is a maritime nation, with world class ports and infrastructure, skills, marine technology and services. Capitalising on this fantastic mix of maritime assets will be vital if we are to prosper in the world post Brexit.”