THE UK Department for Transport is launching a £20-million competition to make innovative green maritime ideas a reality.

The fund will be used to support the development of prototype vessels and port infrastructure that could then be rolled out widely – propelling the sector towards net zero as the UK prepares to host the COP26 climate change summit in November.

The UK government is encouraging scientists and academics to collaborate with shipping, ports and shipbuilders to enter ambitious proposals into the competition, driving economic growth, revitalising coastal communities, creating thousands of jobs, and positioning the country as a leader in the field.

The trials will enable companies to test the new technologies, with a view to them being developed commercially if proven to be successful, helping us build back greener from the pandemic.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said, “We have a proud shipbuilding history, and together with industry, I am determined to build on that as we look to develop the innovations of the future and meet our net-zero target.

“We are revolutionising maritime technology, and from electric boats to hydrogen ports, we will change the way this country sails forever, and bring jobs and prosperity to the UK,” Mr Shapps said.

The competition launch comes as the government prepares to publish its Transport Decarbonisation Plan which sets out how all modes of transport – sea, rail, road and aviation – can make the switch to net zero.

UK maritime minister Robert Courts said this would be a turning point for the country’s maritime sector.

“It’s an opportunity for businesses to develop the technologies of the future, not only protecting our environment but driving economic growth,” Mr Courts said.

“I urge this country’s best thinkers to put their green ideas forward and help us deliver a better, cleaner maritime sector.”

The maritime minister confirmed the news ahead of the launch of two government-funded studies focused on achieving net zero in both the recreational craft sector and offshore wind sectors. 

Developed in partnership with the Carbon Trust, the new study on recreational craft will set out how we can overcome the barriers to the supply of, and demand for, zero carbon recreational craft.

It will make a series of recommendations to governments and industry, including on using alternative fuels, which will be published in late Spring. Leisure boats and sports vessels are vital to the UK economy, worth almost £1.6bn in annual exports and employing 40,000 people across the UK.

This follows the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan, which positions the UK at the forefront of shipbuilding and maritime technology to help push forward low carbon travel.

Carbon Trust chief executive Tom Delay said the maritime sector must decarbonise by 2050.

“Large numbers of people both enjoy and are employed by the recreational craft industry and there are opportunities for leadership in decarbonisation technologies,” he said.

“The recreational craft sector encompasses a wide range of vessel types and there are unique challenges that need to be overcome. A combination of targeted innovation support, cross-industry collaboration and regulatory and financial intervention will be needed to accelerate the development and uptake of low carbon technologies.”