SENIOR Chinese government officials and university staff have visited Southampton to study Hampshire’s thriving maritime and cruise industry.

The 12-strong party, including academics from Shanghai University of Engineering Science, visited Southampton Solent University as part of its fact-finding mission.

The Shanghai university, which is the first in China to offer courses in cruise economy and management, has been in discussions with Solent over further collaboration opportunities.

The two institutions signed a partnership agreement in 2009, which has seen Chinese fashion and product staff and students taking part in summer schools in Southampton, as well as working together on joint projects and exhibitions.

Solent’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Van Gore told the delegation of his university’s latest industry-related projects including, sport science support for Southampton City Football Club and the newly-launched Business Pods and Warsash Superyacht Academy.

As well as university staff, the delegation, which included government officials from Shanghai, which is the world’s busiest port, also met with Southampton sheriff, Cllr Ivan White, who told the visitors Southampton is a “dynamic, forward looking city”.

Hong Wang, governor of Shanghai’s Baoshan District, said: “We are very interested in learning from Europe’s experience of both maritime education and the cruise industry and discovering potential areas that would benefit from closer collaboration.”

Southampton already has close trading links with China through its sister city and fellow port Qingdao.