Over eight out of ten leading voices in Ireland’s marine industry are confident about the future growth potential for Ireland’s marine economy, according to a PwC and the Irish Marine Institute joint survey launched ahead of Our Ocean Wealth Summit, which took place on Monday 10 June in Cork.
The research reveals a number of interesting points that are on the minds of leaders in the marine industry, including the use of offshore technology to further develop wind energy, the fact that sustainability is high on their agenda, that regulation and licensing are proving challenging, and that talent and funding are vitally important for future viability. There is also a call for Government and the industry to work together to prioritise environmental sustainability.
PwC partner Declan McDonald said, "The survey highlights a vibrant Irish marine industry, confident in its future growth potential. As an economy that is home to many of the world’s largest technology companies and tech start-ups, one clear area of unique potential for Ireland is the further development of new technologies in the offshore wind energy areas. The industry has a very significant role to play in meeting Ireland’s future energy needs sustainably.
"Sustainability and clean oceans are high on the minds of industry leaders and is a key theme of today’s conference. Our oceans, like the rest of the planet, are facing significant challenges from human activity in terms of pollution, over fishing and destruction of marine ecosystems. Economic development has to be sustainable and sympathetic to delicate balance of natural ocean resources."
Marine energy including offshore wind and ocean energy (87%) is by far the greatest opportunity for the maritime industry, according to the survey. Other key opportunities include: marine tourism and leisure (50%); Aquaculture, sea-fisheries and processing (47%), marine biotechnology (38%) and shipping and maritime transport (25%).
Ireland having a unique opportunity to develop new technology in the offshore and wind sectors (65%) is the top factor that will maintain or increase the attractiveness of Ireland as a centre of excellence for the blue economy. Other factors include: having a highly educated and young workforce (54%); Ireland as a centre for marine ICT and technology (38%) and Ireland as a potential location for global shipping and maritime commerce (37%).
Aside from sustainability, other top challenges key to the development of the Irish maritime industry, according to the survey, include regulation and licensing in the marine or international waters (49%); international/export markets are vital (38%); access to funding (37%) and investment in marine education (37%). At the same time, the majority (78%) are of the view that when it comes to training, the existing courses and multi-disciplinary programmes provide the necessary qualifications and training.
Financial support (35%) was scored as the single most important factor for the future viability of their marine businesses. Access to a network of marine sector professionals (22%) and building a pipeline of talent with specific marine skills (19%) also scored highly.
Two-thirds (66%) confirmed that they have introduced a number of initiatives to reduce plastics on their premises. At the same time, nearly half (43%) admitted that sustainability and clean oceans is a key challenge.
Dr Peter Heffernan, CEO, Marine Institute said, "It is encouraging to see the focus that businesses are now placing on sustainability in the workplace. We need to rapidly reduce our plastics usage and the Our Ocean Wealth Summit this year has a particular focus on the health of our oceans and how as island nations we must ensure that we reduce the impact of climate change and reduce our carbon footprint."
A large majority (82%) said that Brexit will have a negative impact on the Irish marine industry, including nearly one in five (16%) who stated that it would have an enormous negative impact. The greatest Brexit challenges will be additional costs (29%), possible border checks and delays (29%) and continued access to the EU via the UK land bridge (18%).
Respondents called for a number of key Government and industry actions to increase private sector investment in the marine sector:
"For the industry to really thrive it will be very important that Government and the industry continue to work together with an integrated approach," said McDonald. "They need to be collaborating on important areas and in particular in the area of supporting and investing in environmental sustainability."