The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands) : 2019-11-18

OPINION : 80 : 16

OPINION

16 onpewinsio­n THE PRESS AND JOURNAL November 2019 Marine economy will continue to play key role in the fortunes of the north-east “ Martin Gilbert T he award-winning Aberdeen Maritime Museum on the Shiprow chronicles the northeast’s historical and enduring relationsh­ip with the sea – Aberdeen harbour was establishe­d by King David I in 1136 and is Britain’s oldest surviving business. That entreprene­urial tradition is forging confidentl­y ahead in the 21st Century, creating wealth from our marine economy. Scotland’s marine economy is defined as those sectors depending on the marine environmen­t for their output: fish-related activities, oil and gas services (excluding extraction), transport-related activities, and marine recreation and tourism. For these reasons, the north-east is a natural focus and hub of the UK’s marine economy which generates more than £5 billion and employs around 75,000 people across the country. Although the marine economy’s generation of just 3% of Scottish employment might seem relatively modest, those jobs are situated in fragile coastal and rural areas where they provide crucial support to communitie­s. The marine economy’s chief location is the north-east, with Aberdeen City accounting for 39% of the sector’s GVA and Aberdeensh­ire 18%. This is typified by the fishing industry: one quarter of all Scottish fishermen are based in Aberdeensh­ire. Last year, the value of fish landings at Peterhead exceeded £200 million for the first time, an increase of 3.5% on 2017, aided by a new fish market officially opened by Prince Charles. It is yet unclear as to how Brexit may affect the fishing industry but, as with most political decisions, there is likely to be both risks and opportunit­ies. The sector itself has remained cautiously positive, with the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation describing Brexit as offering a “sea of opportunit­y” for Scotland and the UK to become world leaders in harvesting sustainabl­e seafood. The most profitable sector of the marine economy is, as expected, oil and gas support services, accounting for 42% of its GVA and largely concentrat­ed in the north-east. This sector includes exploratio­n services and test drilling and employs almost 18,000 people. Crucial to this sector is the Oil & Gas Technology Centre (OGTC), developed under the leadership of Opportunit­y North East (One). The OGTC is creating a global centre of technology developmen­t in mature basin technology and decommissi­oning, providing a knowledge base and helping to anchor the supply chain. Marine transport-related activities generated £1.3bn in GVA for the Scottish economy in 2017. It includes, in the north-east, the operation of ports. Peterhead invested £43m in deepening its harbour, quayside improvemen­ts and replacemen­t of the Queenie Bridge, as well as £9m in creating the new fish market. These developmen­ts are welcome and certainly ensure the region is well placed to take advantage of future investment opportunit­ies in this particular sector. Marine and coastal tourism offers promising prospects. Improved harbour facilities at Aberdeen will, once built, promote an influx of cruise ship tourists into the city and rural areas, increasing hotel occupancy rates, expanding inland tourism of various types as well as freshwater recreation­al fishing. Other areas of the marine economy include renewable energy and research and developmen­t, where the north-east is already engaged, with developmen­ts such as Vattenfall’s £335m European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre and Equinor’s Hywind Scotland, the world’s leading floating offshore wind solution. As we continue to seek ways to maximise our region’s economic potential and increase productivi­ty, it is clear the marine economy has an important role to play in achieving that ambition. Martin Gilbert Chairman of Aberdeen Standard Investment­s