Published on: 15 July 2021
Ministers have been urged to reverse plans to scrap crucial grants enabling businesses to export and win business abroad.
Last week, The Department for International Trade (DIT) wrote to British Marine announcing, without warning or consultation, that it is cancelling its Tradeshow Access Programme (TAP). TAP grants that provide vital financial support for businesses to exhibit at international trade shows and are crucial for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to access new markets and raise their profiles overseas.
In response to DIT’s announcement, British Marine, Maritime UK and the Society of Maritime Industries, have written a joint letter to the Minister for Exports, Graham Stuart, urging DIT to keep this vital lifeline for businesses, or risk losing Britain’s global leadership in maritime services, supply chain, marine science, technology and green innovation.
To support British Marine’s campaign to reinstate or replace TAP grants, members are encouraged to contact their local MP using the letter template and information here. Simply copy the text and update the highlighted fields to the relevant information.
Weeks away from the government’s flagship National Shipbuilding Strategy, which will outline plans to deliver the Prime Minister’s promise to ‘bring shipbuilding back home’, the industry warns that a cancellation of the Tradeshow Access Programme will threaten any programme to revitalise the UK’s shipbuilding industry.
Globally, the maritime sector is set to double to $3trn by 2030. DIT’s plans to cancel TAP will likely spark fears that the UK will not be able to take its share of a growing market.
Trade shows are significant moments in the global maritime industry, with the likes of the Dusseldorf International Boat Show in Germany featuring around 1,600 exhibitors from over 50 countries every year, with attendance of up to 250,000 people from around the world.
Currently, the cancellation of TAP will mean there will be no support for SMEs preparing to attend maritime trade shows later this year, including the Monaco Yacht Show and Amsterdam’s METSTRADE show. Given the timing of the announcement and the short timeframe leading up to these events, British Marine continues to seek reassurances from the DIT that eligible UK exhibitors will be awarded an alternative fiscal support package for these Autumn events.
Every year, British Marine alone, as an appointed DIT Trade Challenge Partner successfully allocate 60-80 TAP grants for the leisure marine industry, mainly for small businesses looking to export for the first time.
Lesley Robinson, CEO at British Marine, said:
“This is a hugely disappointing decision made without any stakeholder consultation. With 40% of the UK leisure marine industry’s turnover derived from exports, these TAP grants, although small, are in fact a critical entry level enabler for the many SMEs within our sector, who, without it may not consider attending an overseas show at all. Without TAP grants, there now appears to be very little that DIT does to support SMEs getting a foothold in overseas markets.”
The cancellation of TAP is also feared to provide an unfair advantage to maritime businesses based in countries such as Denmark, Norway and Germany, whose governments maintain financial support mechanisms to first time exporters to appear at trade shows.
Ben Murray, chief executive of Maritime UK, said:
“If the cancellation of these grants goes ahead, the UK risks becoming an absentee at international trade shows.”
“This would come at the worst possible time, with industry looking to bounce back from the pandemic and make a success out of Brexit.”
“And this will hit our maritime sector particularly hard, threatening our leadership on green shipping, technology and services in the global industry. It also doesn’t bode well for the Prime Minister’s promise to ‘bring shipbuilding back home’, with our yards needing overseas orders to thrive.”
“The government talks about ‘Global Britain’, but for our innovative SMEs and shipbuilders, this will feel like isolation unless there is a change of course.”
Tom Chant, CEO of the Society of Maritime Industries, added:
“The TAP scheme has made a real difference for maritime SMEs and supported many of them to enter export markets.”
“It is vital this scheme is replaced with something bigger and better if we are to properly enable SMEs to compete on a level playing field against their international competition and crucial to retaining our status as a global maritime leader.”
Maritime contributes £46.1bn to the UK economy and supports more than one million jobs, with its worldwide appeal being a large part of its success.