Ground-breaking new technology such as autonomous ships and digital ports will be on the agenda with the appointment of a group of experts to help advise on the future of maritime.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has announced the appointment of the team, who will work closely with industry contacts to help make sure the UK stays at the forefront of global shipping over the coming decades.

He has also launched a call for evidence on Maritime 2050 – the Government’s landmark strategy to make the most of future opportunities for the nation’s maritime industries to thrive, which will seek the views of those within the sector as well as those from outside.

Maritime 2050 will set out the challenges and opportunities to allow the Government and the UK shipping industry to plan for the long-term, encourage economic growth by giving certainty to investors, and is likely to include digital advances which can help make shipping more efficient, and the use of low-drag paint to reduce fuel consumption.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said:

“The success of the UK depends on our shipping – it helps put food in our cupboards and fuel in our vehicles.

“We want to maintain our position as a world leading maritime nation and working with the experts from within maritime, as well as those with broader experience, will help us ensure we take every opportunity open to this vital sector.

“Maritime 2050 is a once in a generation opportunity to set an ambitious vision for the future of this key sector and I encourage all of those who depend on shipping to have their say.”

The Call for Evidence, which closes on 16 May, highlights a number of themes fundamental to the growth of UK maritime – technology, trade, infrastructure, environment, people and security/resilience. As part of the strategy, a series of objectives will be set so that progress against each of these themes can be scrutinised.

The expert panel announced today will be chaired by Hugh McNeal, Chief Executive of RenewableUK, and will also made up of academic and industry leaders, including Lucy Armstrong, Chairman of the Port of Tyne, Sarah Kenny, Chief Executive of the BMT Group.

Alongside the views of the expert panel, the Department for Transport is also encouraging partners across the UK maritime sector to come forward with innovative and ambitious ideas to secure our maritime future.

Hugh McNeal, Maritime 2050 expert panel chairman, said:

“I am honoured to be appointed by the Secretary of State to chair the Maritime 2050 Expert Panel, which will offer advice and look strategically at issues of critical importance to the maritime industry to 2050.

“The proposed long-term Maritime 2050 strategy is a recognition of the vital importance of the industry to the UK economy. Shaping the future of the sector is not only important for the maritime industry, but also for every UK business that uses maritime services.

“This is a unique opportunity to have a say in the direction of the UK maritime sector and I encourage the industry, its partners and academics with a stake in the future of UK maritime to respond to the call for evidence.”

The announcement comes a week before the UK will lead the push for the International Maritime Organization to adopt an ambitious strategy to reduce greenhouse emissions from shipping. This includes calling for zero-emission shipping across the global maritime sector to be achieved as quickly as possible.

The Government has also helped set up the Women in Maritime Taskforce, run by Maritime UK, which looks to increase the number of women employed in the sector. The current share of women is around 3 per cent but more diversity in the workforce will also help the industry flourish.