UK marine: open to export

UK marine | MOD DCOBusiness Minister Michael Fallon recently unveiled a joint Government and industry led plan to enhance the global competitiveness of British marine business in a bid to deliver growth in the industry. MOD DCB examines the latest developments in the drive to support the UK marine sector’s export performance.  

Speaking at the Tullett Prebon London Boat Show in January, Minister of State for Business and Enterprise Michael Fallon commented on the opportunities for British exports in the marine sector in markets such as China, Brazil and South Korea and how the sector must take advantage of these opportunities.

The UK Marine Export Strategy, commissioned by the Marine Industries Leadership Council, of which Mr Fallon is Co-Chair, details those sectors of the marine industry which could benefit from greater exports and makes several recommendations as to growth opportunities to improve exportability outside Europe.

The report covers four areas of the UK marine sector: Leisure Marine, covering boat and yacht building, superyachts, small commercial workboats and associated equipment services; Commercial Marine, covering shipbuilding, ship repair and associated equipment and services, marine science and technology; Energy, covering marine-related platforms, products and services for the oil and gas and offshore renewable industries; and Naval Defence.

Commenting on the report, the Minister said: “What we can do with this evolving strategy is build the foundations for the future of the British marine industry. It forms part of our wider Industrial Strategy, which is planning the long-term success of British business. A wealth of growth opportunities exist in the global marine sector that can benefit the UK economy.

“However, as this report highlights, UK companies face challenging conditions, particularly in more traditional markets like the European Union, which is why bigger opportunities lie further afield.”

The report also details Prime Minister David Cameron’s announcement of the National Export Challenge in a bid to get an additional 100,000 UK firms exporting, and Chancellor George Osborne’s target of more than doubling the amount of UK exports to £1 trillion by 2020.

Commenting on the National Export Challenge, UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) said it will take some years to recover from decades of poor trade performances. However, the organisation has already made progress in tackling these issues including being on target to double the number of small and mid-sized businesses they help to 50,000 a year by 2015.

A spokesperson for UKTI said: “UKTI received additional funding in the 2012 Autumn Statement to boost our support for SMEs looking to export. The funding will enable us to launch a voucher scheme for up to 2500 high-growth SMEs to target emerging markets.”

Following his announcement of the National Export Challenge, the Prime Minister commented on the growth of British exports when he released a statement on the UK’s current economic performance. In the previous three years, exports to countries such as Brazil and China, where Michael Fallon has highlighted an opportunity for growth for the marine sector, have significantly increased.

The Prime Minister said: “Over the past three years our exported goods to the fastest-growing parts of the world have been soaring – Brazil, up by half; India, more than half; China, almost doubled; Russia, up by one hundred and thirty three per cent.”

In order to encourage even greater export success, UKTI provides a wide range of services to enable UK-based companies to stimulate international interest in their business. A UKTI spokesperson said: “Our global network provides tailored advice and information on business opportunities and projects, including high-growth markets, and UKTI provides support for more detailed market research.”

Navy | MOD DCOOne particularly useful resource is the ‘Open to Export’ online community. The Open to Export service is delivered by hibu (UK) Ltd, in partnership with UKTI, and is intended to support small and medium-sized enterprises looking to export from the UK. The website provides a wealth of advice and information from a host of mentors on exporting products and services in the form of opportunities, events and articles. The website also offers a Q&A service where users can obtain advice on export queries.

UKTI has taken a campaign approach to winning major international business. This has not only been successful in defence, but also in non-defence sectors such as marine. UKTI’s High Value Opportunities (HVO) programme is an important feature of this new campaigning approach. HVOs cover overseas opportunities worth at least £250 million and which are expected to generate major supply chain opportunities for SMEs.

Commenting on the HVO programme, the UKTI spokesperson said: “UKTI’s global network of staff at embassies and consulates gather early and exclusive information and intelligence on high-value projects where UK businesses have a good prospect of achieving significant business success. Our staff in the UK develop a targeted campaign around each HVO designed to help maximise the chance of UK business success.”

According to the UK Marine Export Strategy, Brazil is the most important market in terms of demand for marine projects. One particularly successful marine HVO is the Petrobras HVO in Brazil’s offshore energy sector which has had early success with GE Power Conversion’s offshore business based in Rugby. This has seen contracts signed valued in excess of £385 million for pre-salt oilfield expansion off Brazil’s east coast.  General Electric’s systems will power, propel, navigate, position and control drillships and support vessels, as well as powering and controlling the drilling process itself. The company will in fact design and build systems for no fewer than 22 of the 29 drillships working on Petrobras’s Brazilian oil and gas exploration projects.

At the moment, the UK marine sector is being jointly appraised by Government and industry. The UKTI Marine Sector Advisory Group (MSAG) and the Marine Industries Leadership Council, along with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), are compiling a report due to be released in May this year which will assess the relative strengths of UK exports. UKTI is working with BIS to gain insight into the export market and to further analyse trade statistics data.

Commenting on the upcoming report, the UKTI spokesperson said: “We expect this work will help us to identify more clearly the relevant export strengths of the different marine sub-sectors. This will greatly assist our staff who continually monitor business opportunities for large projects that could be transformed into a High Value Opportunity.”

For further information or to download the report visit: