A NEW body will promote Solent’s maritime industry as the “UK’s coastal powerhouse”.

Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has launched Maritime UK Solent to champion the region as a globally significant maritime hub.

The marine and maritime sector employs 40,000 people in the region and the new body – one of the first of its kind in the UK – will bring together the sector’s strengths and assets.

It will be steered by the LEP and will help members develop international links to grow their businesses and provide them with a direct route to government with the help of industry body Maritime UK.

As well as bringing the sector and providing leadership, it will encourage collaboration and the sharing of best practice to improve knowledge of the sector in the region.

It will hold regular, themed networking events, offer advice on marine and maritime issues and monitor and analyse relevant economic figures to predict challenges and opportunities.

The new body was announced by Kevin George, a Solent LEP business director and chair of the board for Red Funnel, the Isle of Wight ferry operator. The announcement came at an event held by the Department for Transport at the 1851 Trust in Portsmouth, to launch its 2018/19 Maritime Annual Report.

Further activity will follow in September during London International Shipping Week when the LEP will fully launch Maritime UK Solent.

Mr George said:“From the world’s largest container and cruise ships relying on the infrastructure and connectivity of Southampton, to the Royal Navy’s most complex and largest warship in history being based here in Portsmouth, the Solent region truly is at the heart of UK maritime.

“Its geography, heritage and the important part it plays in maritime innovation are all things that we are incredibly proud of and want to champion. We are delighted to announce the launch of the Maritime UK Solent hub, which will play a vital role in further solidifying the Solent as the UK’s coastal powerhouse.”

The marine and maritime sector is one of the region’s largest and most productive sectors, employing 40,000 people and accounting for 20.5 per cent of Solent’s gross value added (GVA) output, according to LEP figures.

Over the period to 2025, the sector is forecast to grow by at least five per cent.

Southampton – the busiest cruise port int the UK – is a critical stopping point on the world’s busiest trade route from Shanghai to Rotterdam and a gateway to global markets for the car industry. It supports 15,000 jobs and contributes more than £1billion of GVA ot the local economy.

Vehicle exports through the city rose from 650,000 in 2012 to 900,000 in 2016, with increases to 18m forecast by 2035.

Hampshire has three universities with specialisms vital to the sector, while Southampton has a £120m Marine and Maritime Institute to bring together research, innovation, regulatory skills and education.

Businesses and other organisations wanting to find out more about Maritime UK Solent will be able to find more information at solentlep.org.uk in the coming weeks.

To express an interest in the new body, email MUKSolent@solentlep.org.uk