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Inaugural British Marine National Conference heralded a great success

Published on: 17 March 2022

Conference day 2

The inaugural British Marine National Conference concluded last week (16 March) following a jam-packed two days full of inspirational speakers, networking opportunities and celebrations.

Top decision makers from across the marine industry attended the conference to hear from a whole host of engaging speakers from both within and outside the marine sector. They covered everything from high performance technology and new environmental trends, to dealing with post-pandemic and Brexit-related challenges.

British Marine CEO, Lesley Robinson and President Ian Cooke, got things underway before introducing the inspirational Angus Lugsdin, co-founder and director of Salcombe Distilling Company, who captivated the audience with insight into how they use innovation to elevate and differentiate their brand, seek out ways to inspire their team and ultimately their customers, alongside their progressive focus on sustainability.   

“Standing still is going backwards, so innovate or die, is what I’ve always believed in. It’s the process of creation and innovation that keeps most businesses alive.  It’s what attracts people to come and work for you, when they see you doing cool stuff that they can relate to and the brand getting out there,” commented Angus.  

“You also require it to retain talent, because people want to be associated with brands and companies that are growing, so to me it’s the heartbeat of most businesses. If you are standing still, you’re not progressing,” Angus added.

The day continued with speaker sessions and breakout groups covering everything from staffing matters and how to attract and retain staff post-COVID, to looking to the future of the <24m recreational and commercial craft sector. Sessions also focused on how to maximise revenue through disruption, with real life examples of how existing marine products have been enhanced and brought to market to attract a new customer base, right through to exploring funding opportunities to fuel product and service innovation.

To close day one, Ed Balls, former Shadow Chancellor, academic, author and broadcaster, shared his insight into the future economic landscape of the UK marine industry, alongside a lively industry lead panel debate.

It was then time to celebrate marine businesses and professionals from across the UK at the British Marine and Boating Business Awards, as well as giving a special thank you to those individuals who have made an exceptional contribution to the service of British Marine with the introduction of the new British Marine Lifetime Honorary Membership Award.  

“The awards were a great addition to the conference agenda,” commented Lesley Robinson, British Marine CEO. “The breadth of talent and the level of dedication that exists within the marine industry is quite phenomenal and it is important that we recognise this. The awards go some way in showcasing these exceptional individuals and to express our thanks for all they bring to the sector and the organisations they work for,” Lesley added.

In a post-pandemic world, staycations are here to stay... but what does the outlook look like for operators?  That was the question posed to delegates to open day two, in a thought-provoking session with Allan Lambert, CEO of Habitat First Group, which focused on the importance of collaboration, ways we can help protect the environment in which we operate and understanding the different requirements of our existing and next generation of customers and guests.

“If anything, the last two years have taught us that all chief executives should consider having a green thread running through their businesses. Recent discussions around climate change and carbon zero mean that not only business leaders, but our guests, should start to look at how we’re adapting our business to ensure that we use our resources sustainably and maximise all our efforts to achieve the target of being carbon neutral. This is an area that needs great collaboration, and whilst many will be innovative and bring new ideas to market, it’s probably an area of business where we could share, work together and steal as many good ideas as possible for the benefit of all of us, rather than just competitive advantage,” commented Allan.

The morning continued with further sessions covering a broad spectrum of subject matters including sustainability and the route to electrification, health and wellbeing on the water, technological advances on the waterways, the art of customer retention and acquisition, plus how to challenge your industry and succeed, to name just a few.

Throughout the two-day conference, delegates were also able to chat with a number of exhibiting companies including Go Earth, The Green Blue and IBB Law; take advantage of one-to-one sessions with industry experts in the Members Hub, as well as having plenty of time to network with colleagues from across the industry and catch up with old friends.

“With so many businesses having faced unprecedented challenges over the last couple of years, the conference was the perfect way to not only reconnect with industry peers but provided a forum to listen and learn from each other, seek out new innovations, explore emerging markets and consumer trends while looking at ways to tackle barriers to growth, to ensure future success and our continued place as global leaders in all sectors of the marine industry.

“The lively debate and participation of all the delegates proved instrumental in shaping the conference and making it an overwhelming success,” concluded Lesley.

Chair of the National Conference, Paul Martin, summed up the event by saying: “Following months of meticulous planning and preparation, the inaugural British Marine National Conference was a fantastic event.  

“There were many varied and high-quality speakers and workshops, discussing and debating numerous topics on how to innovate your business and prepare for future business, combined with many networking opportunities to discuss, share and learn best practice from across our industry and to listen to innovative successes outside our industry. I have taken, and will implement, several good ideas learnt at this event which will have an impact on my business for years to come, and I have been told much the same from many of my industry colleagues.  

“This is set to be the ‘go to’ event for all marine professionals in future years, and combined with an evening of awards and celebration, I will certainly be booking for the next year’s conference without hesitation.”

What attendees said of the conference:

Phil Langley – Marina and Operations Director at Aqueduct Marina 

"It’s a great opportunity to meet other businesses in the marine sector and listen to the talks, also from outside the sector as well, like the gin one this morning, it’s a really good opportunity to learn from other people and peers from the marine sector. Really good turnout, well put together event and looking forward to seeing what happens over the next couple of days."

Hannah Cash – Solicitor, owner of Yachting Lawyers

"We’ve never had anything like this before in our industry, so I came along to support it. I saw the agenda, which was brilliant in terms of line up, so there were lots of things that were interesting to me, so I’ve come along to support and do some networking."

"Because I’m a small business I’m always looking to share information, find out what other people are doing, and get ideas. The things I have seen today around innovation can’t just be applied to the technical side of things, but you actually really apply it to your business, so from that point of view I’ve really enjoyed the wide variety of talks. From Salcombe Gin to the session on retention and recruitment, so lots of really useful things, lots of takeaways."

Ryan Day – Property Portfolio Manager, Hoseasons 

"It’s reassuring to know that the issues we have with our small sector of the industry are spread across the wider industry and hearing how other sectors are dealing with it, it kind of brings it all together and helps share good practice. Getting this many people in one room is really useful, to see people from different businesses, in one place, at one time, is rare, especially due to the last couple of years. I think it’s really good to get everyone together, everyone’s keen to network, keen to talk. In the lobby earlier there were lots of people having lots of conversations, which is always great."

Alison Thompson - Head of Learning and Development at Princess Yachts 

"It was a great experience attending the National Conference, the Staffing Matters session enabled me to discuss what Princess Yachts is doing to revolutionise the way we handle staffing matters. We have challenged the way we have always worked historically and in turn we have offered our staff more flexibility with their working hours, offering a four-day week and also allowing specific roles overtime."

Neill Walker - Chief Marketing Officer, P&D Marine Group 

"It’s a great conference as it brings the right kind of people we want to talk to, from that point of view. It’s a good mix of conference and exhibition, so when people come out for a cup of coffee, instead of just standing around they can actually talk to people and for us, the reason why we came was because we brought two new innovative products in terms of dealing with chemical and oil pollution in the water, and we’re here with Pro-Earth which is one of our partners, with our own Waste Rover that is a bot, that clears up waste from the water. So, bearing in mind that the conference is about sustainability and that kind of thing, that’s the reason we felt we had to have a presence at the conference."

Paul Tomes - Hopyacht, joining us from South Africa 

"It was interesting to come to a conference not to meet direct customers, but it has been a great opportunity to meet people and make strong partnerships. I took three pages of notes just from the first speaker. Who would have thought a gin presentation would provide so many ideas that I could apply to selling Hopyachts. For us, as an international visitor, connecting with British Marine is such a valuable resource, when isolated at the bottom of the world, it’s nice to connect with people to learn from them as well as getting reassurance you’re doing it right."

Mark Easby - Better 

"It’s our first time working with British Marine and the marine sector, trying to get to know the businesses and organisations and how we can add value. The conference has proved a great place to see lots of people in one place, start building relationships and understanding peoples’ business needs.”

For more information about British Marine, British Marine membership and to find out about future events visit