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UK marine industries going green, need more government support

Photo: SMI SMI CEO Tom Chant 2.jpg
Tom Chant, Chief Executive of SMI
The UK’s marine and maritime engineering firms are embracing decarbonisation in a big way but the government is not doing enough to enable them to go green, according to a survey by the Society of Marine Industries (SMI).

The findings of SMI’s Green Maritime Survey were announced as the COP26 climate change summit gets underway in Glasgow. It found that two thirds of companies were actively involved in green research and developing green technologies.

A further 78% said the environmental agenda is impacting the way they run their business with 93% saying their customers are increasingly aware of the environmental impact of operations

Despite the positive findings of the survey the big issue for two-thirds of companies was that they were not getting enough support from the government to go green and the amount of red tape encountered by those applying for grants and schemes.

SMI Chief Executive Tom Chant welcomed the extra funding awarded by the Chancellor Rishi Sunak in the budget for research around the Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition. “But one message we are hearing loud and clear is the need to slash back on red tape around grants. Too often the red tape makes it too onerous for busy companies to apply for funding,” he said.

One company encountering issues with red tape for funding is Twiflex a manufacturer of mechanical power transmission equipment for use on ships, wind turbines and tidal power.

Asked if the government was doing enough to help, Neil Wright, Vice President and Director of the “Heavy Duty Brakes Group” from Altra Motion, representing the Bedford-based manufacturer Twiflex,  said: Unfortunately not.

“We have trouble securing innovation grants because our parent company is American and there is confusion as to whether we are classed as an “SME”. This seems wrong when Twiflex Limited is a company registered in the UK paying taxes and employing and training people.”

He noted the company had contributed significantly to the local economy in Bedford doubling its workforce in 15 years.

“In the past we had a local government contact that knew our business and could keep us informed of the financial help available and even help us complete the grant applications. Replacing these local contacts, with knowledgeable people who have business experience would be helpful in resolving this issue,” Wright explained.

“For now, we have given up pursuing grants based on past experiences.”