The government is being urged to establish a minister for the coastal powerhouse to help communities recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The call has come from Maritime UK – the umbrella body for Britain’s £46 billion maritime sector – during Seafarers Awareness Week.
Similar to the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine economic growth schemes, it says the minister would be responsible for revitalising coastal economies and improving the lives of the three million people living on Britain’s coastlines, who may be worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
A report in 2017 showed the maritime sector in Scotland, including shipping, ports, marine and maritime business services industries, directly supported just under £9.3bn in turnover, £3.6bn in GVA and 39,300 jobs.
Maritime UK said before coronavirus, economic forecasters CEBR predicted that maritime jobs were set to increase by 15% until 2023 – creating 30,000 new positions.
It is hoped the growth is still achievable in the medium term, with the Committee on Climate Change recommending emissions targets of net-zero greenhouse gases by 2050 in the UK and by 2045 in Scotland.
Maritime UK says there is a need to invest in green technology with the sector predicted to be worth £12bn by 2050.
Maritime UK chairman Harry Theochari said a Minister for the Coastal Powerhouse would help “turbo-charge” the development of coastal communities.
He said: “With the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine, we have seen what is possible when a minister is held accountable for the economic development of a certain region.
“Coastal communities have been some of the hardest hit in this crisis, and we need accountability to ensure the ‘left behind’ are not left behind once more.
“There is a fantastic opportunity here. Coastal communities can be at the heart of massive new growth opportunities: increased global trade through our ports, new green maritime technologies, moving freight off the road and rail network to coastal and inland shipping, advanced manufacturing, modern shipbuilding and by encouraging more people to get on the water.”
Kevin Hobbs, CEO of Caledonian Maritime Assets and non executive director for the Scottish Maritime Cluster, said: “Coastal communities have suffered over the last number of years while major conurbations have accelerated. Coastal communities have been left behind and become progressively more reliant on tourist trade.
“The pandemic has exposed the frailties of the coastal communities generally so it’s high time someone was trying to champion them.”
He said there is potential for offshore renewables development: “That is one of the key sectors that can be developed and it marries with the climate emergency in trying to drive down emissions.
“There is a sweet spot there that people could benefit from and Scotland with its extensive coastline is in an extremely good position to do that.”