AROUND 6,000 people are expected to have attended Europe’s biggest commercial marine exhibition by the time it closes on Thursday, delivering a multi-million pound boost to Southampton.

Seawork has returned to Mayflower Park after a three-year break.

Organisers of the expo – which is expected to generate £7million-£9m for the Southampton economy – say the turnout was good despite the first day coinciding with the biggest national rail strike for 30 years.

Andrew Webster, managing director of organiser Mercator Media, said: “I think there are about 400 stands representing about 600 companies.

“We would expect something around about 6,000 people to visit over the three days and they’re all marine professionals, typically marine operations managers, marine supervisors, harbourmasters.”

He said there were visitors from all over western Europe and he was sure deals were being done at the show.

The event is the 23rd Seawork in Southampton, after two missed years years because of the pandemic.

At the event’s opening, Mr Webster said: “It’s the first post-Brexit and the first really large post-pandemic networking opportunity for us. There’s certainly a lot to talk about and it provides a great opportunity to meet and learn from each other too.”

The opening was performed by Sarah Kenny, chair of the industry group Maritime UK, and Southampton City Council leader Cllr Satvir Kaur.

Ms Kenny said it was “fantastic to be back here at Seawork after a very long break”.

“It’s important to be here in such a totemic location and to celebrate what we do best,” she said.

She spoke of the importance of decarbonisation, enhancing the UK’s competitiveness and attracting new talent into the industry.

“The UK really is the world’s leading maritime nation and we face fantastic international competition but working together we can achieve much more than any of us can on our own,” she said.

Cllr Kaur told the Daily Echo it was “fantastic” to have the event back.

“Southampton has a rich and proud marine and maritime history which has shaped our city ‘s development today, from having one of the best ports in Europe to being the home of the National Oceanography Centre as well as hosting national and international events like this one,” she said.

“It’s so important that we play our part to keep the sector thriving. Events like this not only bring tens of thousands of people from around the world into our city but it’s great to be at the forefront of such an important sector for the country and it helps grow the local economy as well.”

She welcomed the fact that the three-day event includes a Maritime Skills and Training Day, “which is about giving opportunities and access to young people wanting to enter the maritime and marine sector”.

“We do need to inspire the next generation to keep this important sector going,” she added.