Ed Watt: Scots shipbuilding on course for revival

SHIPBUILDING is seeing a welcome renaissance, a move that is welcomed by Ed Watt

Scotlands maritime services sector is worth £3.8 billion per year. Picture: TSPL
Scotlands maritime services sector is worth £3.8 billion per year. Picture: TSPL

Thanks to the actions of a small number of visionary individuals, Scotland’s ship-building capability is experiencing something of a renaissance. So it should – Scotland cannot afford to lose this vital industry. Such a revival will benefit many and the success of our maritime sector appears now firmly to feature on the Scottish Government radar.

Scotland’s maritime services sector is worth £3.8 billion per year and an estimated 75,000 jobs. The shipping industry accounts for approximately 1 per cent of Scotland’s GDP. While a significant element of this is oil and gas sector related, currently facing significant challenges, a revived shipbuilding sector can boost both the wider maritime industry and the country as a whole.

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Last year we saw the rescue of the Ferguson Marine yard by Clyde Blowers Capital, and the recent £1 million Scottish Enterprise grant shall help continue re-building the fortunes of a historic industry.

At the end of October we also saw the launch of the City of Glasgow College new Riverside Campus and Marine Skills Centre, described as the most advanced maritime college in the world.

Nonetheless, we should remember that preservation of Scottish know-how is perhaps more remarkable still, considering the relative lack of financial support for UK yards facing government-sponsored European competitors.

Scotland contributes to the UK maritime cluster, but that is also facing increasing competition from alternative hubs. According to a recent report by the UK Ship Register Advisory Panel, the number of ships registered in the UK has declined by 36 per cent since 2009, while the total number of ships in the world fleet has risen by 5 per cent during that same period. This is quite a seismic and troubling, yet unreported, shift away from the trusted and venerable “red duster”.

• Ed Watt, partner and head of shipping and transport at HBJ Gateley.