Q&A: Nusrat Ghani MP
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport) and UK Maritime Minister Nusrat Ghani MP talks about her experiences working with the maritime industry.
Why is your role interesting (anything specifically Maritime?) and what are the challenges?
It is a real privilege to be Shipping Minister and it has been fascinating to learn about the essential work this sector carries out for this country, along with the issues it faces, over the last six months. My role varies hugely from one day to the next, and whether I’m visiting a UK port, meeting industry leaders, or talking with the people that run the day to day operations that keep our maritime industry thriving, I’m constantly impressed by what I see.
As Minister, I have the important responsibility to champion the sector and we ensure that it is at the heart of our decision making – especially when we are thinking about our future trading relationships.
What has been the most surprising thing you’ve learnt about the maritime industry since you joined the Department for Transport?
Why does the industry matter?
It was after appointed Shipping Minister in January I realised the sheer scale and breadth of our maritime industry. More than 95% of the UK’s imports and exports are moved by sea with the sector generating over £14.5bn each year for the UK economy and directly employing more than 186,000 people, but despite the critical nature of the sector to our economy, its importance is often not recognised by those outside of the industry
A surprise for me was the tiny number of women in the industry. Current estimates suggest that over 97% of certified officers, 72% of uncertified officers and 76% of rating are men. Given the range of exciting and rewarding maritime careers available, I am determined to encourage more women, and young people in general, into the industry.
Finally, the industry is vital to ensuring our future prosperity. The UK is an outward facing and global trading nation. Our maritime sector is at the forefront of our efforts to promote free trade and will only become increasingly important as we seize the international trade opportunities that arise from our withdrawal from the European Union.
What do you think the future holds for the maritime sector in the UK?
The maritime sector is a core part of our national economy. As an island nation, we rely on the sea to put food on our tables and provide energy for our cars and homes. I don’t see this changing fundamentally in the foreseeable future. However, we only have to look back at the technological advances made in the last thirty years to realise that the world is evolving faster than ever before. As we move through the 21st century I expect technology to transform the maritime sector as we make better use of connected, autonomous and digital technologies. Digitalisation could lead to more efficient, streamlined operations, with ports and shipping at the forefront of this change, while automation and other high-tech solutions will similarly open up new opportunities. We will likely see a change in the skills profile of many workers, with more highly skilled roles available in a sector that is already innovating and embracing future technologies. Going forward we must ensure the sector recruits new and young talent that can make the most of the opportunities technology will unlock.
It was the pace of technological change that inspired the Secretary of State when he launched Maritime 2050 earlier this year. This long-term strategy aims to ensure future prosperity and innovation for the UK’s maritime economy while maintaining the UK’s position as a global leader, for the next 30 years and beyond.
The UK this year also played a leading role in negotiating an ambitious deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping. This will open up new opportunities for British businesses to develop new, green technologies to help deliver zero-emission shipping.
Why should young people consider the maritime industry when they are planning their future?
What would you say to a 16-year old (male or female) who are thinking about their future?
A career in the maritime sector is guaranteed to be one of the most rewarding and diverse a young person can choose. The range and breadth of careers available is huge, ranging from roles on ships, exciting jobs in ports, STEM-based careers in our marine engineering sector right through to roles in maritime business services. All of these are rewarding roles that play a vital part in supporting our national economy and give young people the ability to learn highly sought after skills. Perhaps the best thing about the sector is how transferable maritime experience and skills are. I know for example that many of the maritime business services companies working in areas like law, ship broking and insurance all look for a candidate with relevant maritime experience.
Young people considering a career at sea should consider the Government’s Support for Maritime Training (SMarT) programme. Earlier this year I was delighted to double the funding for SMarT which will be vital in enabling us to train more officer cadets. As well as this, a large number of shipping companies have committed to increasing the number of training berths available and employing newly qualified officers, under this programme, enabling them to achieve their second certificate of competency.
There is also a range of apprenticeships available across the wider maritime sector. I was particularly pleased that a marine engineer apprenticeship was approved earlier this year and I hope to see many more maritime apprenticeships approved throughout 2018. This year is also the Department for Transport’s “Year of Engineering”, a campaign encouraging a better understanding and awareness of engineering through direct experiences to open up the profession to more young people. The Department is working with partners to bring more young people from all backgrounds face-to-face with engineering experiences and role models to demonstrate the opportunities and variety of engineering careers and that gender, ethnicity and background shouldn’t be a barrier to entering the profession. I hope that we see many more of our young people considering and taking up a career in the maritime sector.
What would you say to encourage girls/women to think about maritime opportunities?
There is much more the to the maritime sector than many people see at first glance. I would encourage women and girls to take a closer look at the huge number of varied and rewarding jobs. The UK maritime sector would benefit hugely from their talent and experience.
There is more we can do to encourage more women into the industry. The Maritime UK’s Women in Maritime Task Force will be pivotal in helping us understand and address the gender disparity in the industry. Addressing diversity in the sector will help us to attract new talents and skills and maintain our world-leading position in maritime.
I was delighted to be able to attend the first meeting of the women in maritime task force and speak about the pressing need to improve the gender balance in the industry. I’m encouraging all maritime companies and educational institutions to get involved with the work of the task force and consider how they can encourage and retain women applicants to their jobs and courses at all levels.