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Marine and Maritime Economy

The Solent's coastal location, business base, research assets and educational strengths positions us as the UK's leading marine cluster, at the heart of the UK's marine and maritime economy.

The Solent's marine and maritime sector is one of our largest and most productive sectors, accounting for 20.5% of Solent's GVA, providing 40,000 jobs locally, and supporting more than 3,000 businesses. Over the period to 2025, the marine and maritime sector in the Solent region is forecast to grow by at least 5%.

Our ports at Southampton and Portsmouth are the most advantageously positioned in the UK. Situated just 20 nautical miles from international shipping lanes and less than 100 nautical miles from the mass markets of mainland Europe, they provide a strategic hub and gateway to global markets for enterprises across southern and central England. Portsmouth Port is one of the country’s leading ‘Roll-on, Roll-off’ (Ro-Ro) traffic destinations, with crossings to France, Spain and the Channel Islands. Southampton is a critical stopping point on the world’s busiest trade route from Shanghai to Rotterdam; a gateway to global markets for the automotive industry; and the busiest cruise port in the UK. Supporting 15,000 jobs and contributing over £1.0bn of GVA to the local economy.  Southampton Port’s potential contribution to the export-led recovery is clear from its data on vehicle exports, which rose from 650,000 in 2012 to 900,000 in 2016, with further increases to 1.858m forecast by  2035.

We have clear strengths in marine manufacturing. The Portsmouth Naval Base sits at the heart of a high-tech defence and advanced manufacturing cluster, supporting 20,000 direct and indirect jobs, contributing over £1.6bn of GVA. This cluster extends beyond marine into aerospace, including companies such as BAE Systems, GE Aviation Systems, Astrium and Qinetiq.

We have an international reputation for leisure marine excellence and a cluster of world-class Superyacht designers, that play a central role in maintaining the UK’s world-leading reputation for the production of quality powerboats and high-value sailing yachts. We are renowned as a venue for watersports, sailing, ocean racing, long-distance races and for globally recognised events such as Cowes Week, Southampton Boat Show and Seawork. Our waterways and marinas are filled with leisure boats year around, supporting a variety of jobs in large and small businesses across the economy.

We also have strengths in emerging sectors and technologies, such as composite manufacturing, marine autonomous systems, offshore wind and tidal energy; sectors in which our skills and innovation assets can give us first to market advantage. The Isle of Wight, home to the world’s first hovercraft, is now a major site for the development of composite materials, used by GKN (Airbus), GURIT (Automobile and Marine), BAE systems (warships), local boat-builders and the Danish company Vestas' wind turbine blade research and testing facility.

Our research and development assets are also second to none. They include three universities with specialisms in areas such as composites, fluid dynamics and marine autonomous systems. In September 2014, the Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute (SMMI) – a £120m investment, was opened, creating enabling an internationally-recognised centre of excellence, bringing together a research, innovation, regulatory skills and education community from universities, research institutes, industry and government.  In addition, with the establishment of the Head Quarters of Land Rover BAR in Portsmouth, the areas is at the forefront of world-leading boat design.

Solent LEP is a member of Maritime UK, which brings together the UK’s shipping, ports, marine and business services industries to promote the sector, influence government and drive growth.