Gosport can become a bigger maritime player

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Last week at Prime Minister’s Question Time, I invited David Cameron to Gosport to see for himself one of the sailing hubs that makes the British marine industry such an asset to our economy.

This month the Clipper round-the-world yacht race set off from London, marking the start of a gruelling 11-month challenge which will see competitors sail 40,000 miles to the Americas, Africa and Australasia.

Clipper Ventures is based in Gosport’s Royal Clarence Marina, where amateur sailors take part in a world-class training programme preparing them for the tribulations of the high seas.

Gosport is home to three round-the-world race headquarters, including Sailing Training International and Global Ocean Race, demonstrating the importance of its marine and sailing industries to the UK economy.

It’s important to maximise the huge potential that our maritime businesses have for the local economy. That’s why last year I came up with the idea for a Gosport Marine Scene Group.

Nearly a year on, the group is working hard to put Gosport on the map as a world-class marine destination, to create jobs and boost visitor revenue for local businesses.

In the UK, the maritime services industry contributes around £14bn to the UK economy. Hosting the start and finish of the Clipper Race alone will bring in an estimated £50m.

Nevertheless, the maritime industry is currently facing the same issues as any other sector: access to finance, the skills gap and admission to foreign markets.

I’m pleased that the government has shown its commitment to supporting such industries with the Funding for Lending Scheme, the Employer’s Ownership Pilot and the UKTI’s Britain’s Open for Business strategy.

It’s vital that we make the most of the beautiful coastline right on our doorstep. Gosport has the potential to become an even bigger player in the maritime industry, and I’m confident we can succeed.