Marine Economy Week is a week-long virtual event hosted by Harper Macleod. It examines all aspects of Scotland’s diverse maritime sector. The marine economy is a fundamental part of Scotland’s Natural Capital, as well as having the ability to play a large role in the efforts to tackle climate change.
This is the second year we’ve hosted Marine Economy Week, and it was a real privilege to bring together a range of key stakeholders, all with a vested interest in the growth and protection of Scotland’s marine economy.
Thank you to all our speakers for providing us with their insights and giving up their time, including the Scottish Government minister for business, trade, tourism and enterprise, Ivan McKee MSP.
We started the week by providing an overview of Scotland’s rich marine economy , highlighting its breadth and diversity, particularly in the context of the Scottish Government’s vision for what it calls the “blue economy”, and its new strategy document which was published recently.
Day one was an opportunity for us to take stock of the opportunities within our marine economy, touching on the significance of the latest ScotWind leasing round, the launch of Orbital Marine’s new tidal turbine, and the innovation within our valuable aquaculture sector.
We provided an overview of the Scottish Government’s most recent budget, which outlined a range of marine economy commitments, including £650m for ongoing support for our rural economy, agriculture, fishing and seafood sectors. We also summarised the latest funding initiatives to support the sector’s growth, particularly in light of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund no longer accepting applications from Scotland. However, there are a range of funding options available including the UK Seafood Fund, and the Green Offshore Tech project.
Catch up now
Our chairman, Professor Lorne Crerar CBE, has recorded a reflection on the 2022 conference – please click below to watch the summary. If you would like to read a review of the discussion points please click here. If you missed any sessions or would like to revisit what happened on particular days, all of the content is now available on-demand below, please scroll to watch any of the sessions.
MEW 2022 Insights
Ports and Harbours
The topic for day two was ports and harbours, and we were fortunate to be joined by Ivan McKee MSP, minister for business, trade, tourism and enterprise, who provided our keynote address (link to day two). Mr McKee gave us an insightful vision of the Scottish Government’s ambition for the blue economy, particularly when considering the two Green Freeports which will be created in Scotland.
Joining Mr McKee on our panel was Richard Ballantyne, chief executive of the British Ports Association, and Steve Regan, owner of the Ardersier Port Authority Energy Transition Facility.
Richard underlined the size and strength of the UK and Scotland’s ports and harbour sector, which handle 95% of UK trade and employs more than 115,000 people. England is currently in the process of setting up a number of new freeports, which may act as a precursor to the two new green freeports which are in the process of being created in Scotland.
Steve Regan provided the developer viewpoint, and the exciting progress being made at Ardersier, the role it intends to play in Scotland’s net zero ambitions supporting the ScotWind leasing. The owners of Ardersier are also embracing circular economy principles and practices.
Just as we were hosting day two of Marine Economy Week, the Queen’s Speech was taking place, which included the Harbours, Seafarers and Remuneration Bill, in response to the concerns arising from the much publicised P&O Ferries issue. We await to see how that bill will be received by the sector, but undoubtedly it is a piece which we will be closely monitoring, and providing updates to our clients who may be impacted.
Innovation in the aquaculture section was the topic of discussion for day three. Our IP & technology partner, Jamie Watt, was joined by Hanne Mertens, chief operating officer of Aqua Pharma Group, the Norway-based but global veterinary services provider to the aquaculture industry.
Hanne covered a range of topics, including the developing trends, challenges for the sector, and emerging regulatory themes.
An important thread running through this discussion was that while our waters are perfectly suited for aquaculture, operators are acutely aware of their responsibilities to the environment. The concepts of welfare below the waters, circular economies and environmental footprints, are becoming increasingly important for aquaculture operators.
The aquaculture sector has proven its agility and credentials at being at the forefront of innovation, in the face of numerous challenges such as sustainability and consumer demand. The opportunities are there for the Scottish sector to work collaboratively, with other nations, and other sectors, to harness the most from our water’s natural capital.
Marine and offshore renewable energy was the topic for day four and we were joined by William Black, deputy director of energy strategy and strategic coordination and energy consent within the Scottish Government, and Andy McDonald – director of offshore wind development and operations at ORE Catapult, the UK’s leading innovation and research centre for the offshore renewable energy sector.
It was natural that a large part of this discussion would focus on ScotWind, it is the first round of offshore wind leasing in Scotland for a decade, and the world’s largest offshore leasing competition.
It’s clear the significance of ScotWind to Scotland’s net zero ambitions, and the opportunity for the supply chain to support such a major piece of Scottish infrastructure. The discussion centred around the key factors which would make ScotWind a success for all stakeholders, including the communities closest to the developments. True collaboration among those stakeholders will be important, including the infrastructure and skills required, regulators, planners and developers.
People and Skills
We were joined by Martin Leyland from Shetland Seafood Auctions and Angus Ferguson from Onboard Maritime, a specialist training provider for the maritime sector.
Martin kindly underlined the importance of Shetland to our seafood industry – it is the second largest port in the UK for landed fish. Prior to the pandemic there was more fish landed in Shetland than the whole of England, Northern Ireland and Wales combined.
The maritime sector in Scotland provides 75,000 jobs, which is around 3% of the total Scottish workforce. More than a quarter of Scotland’s fishing workforce is not from the UK, and nearly one in five are not from the European Economic Area.
A key area of discussion was around the challenges in the sector to adequately attract, recruit and retain skilled people, particularly in the more remote areas of Scotland. This is no mean feat when you consider that Scotland’s marine area is seven times greater than that of the land mass.
The topic of immigration as a route to solving some of Scotland’s recruitment challenges, was explored, as well as the transition of skills from either different sectors, or different parts of the world.
Given where the sector is, emerging from the pandemic and still managing the impact of Brexit, the discussion touched on what operators could be doing now to help overcome some of those people challenges.
There are definitely opportunities in Scotland’s marine economy, there are also challenges to overcome.
The Scottish Government outlines some 25 different sub categories which make up our marine economy.
Our Marine Economy Week brought together as many of those sectors as was practical, but there are some underlying themes which we can all take away – those of innovation and collaboration, while protecting our precious marine environment.
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