Voters in the UK will go to the polls on Thursday to elect a new parliament, but with major issues including the country’s economy up for debate there has been little discussion of the maritime sector’s needs. 

The historically powerful maritime nation has seen its shipbuilding powers wane over the last century, but ports and the wider maritime sector remain a critical part of the UK’s economic infrastructure and strategy.

Along with the politicians, industry representatives and organisations are calling for whichever party wins power to work with the sector on key issues. 

Maritime UK, the country’s sector body, was ahead of even the Prime Minister (who decides when UK elections are to be held), publishing its own “manifesto” in April 2024. The body said there are three main areas they wanted to see change and investment: People; Infrastructure; and Green Fuels. 

Among its wishes for the next government, it asked for more collaboration with the Maritime Skills Commission to expand career opportunities; investment in green maritime (port) infrastructure; and removing VAT on green maritime fuels. 

Maritime labour union Nautilus published “five principles” and asked candidates standing in the election to support them. These are: “Prevent another P&O Ferries scandal; Good jobs and world-class training; Tackle flags of convenience; Support a maritime ‘just transition’; Enhance seafarer rights internationally”. 

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Candidates in 12 constituencies, representing eight parties (or standing as Independent), agreed to support the union and its campaign.

With that in mind, Ship Technology has taken a look at the manifesto promises relating to the sector in the past six weeks of heavy campaigning. 


The Conservatives have been in power for 14 years, and polling companies in the UK suggest the centre-right party will lose its position in government on Thursday 4 July. 

But its manifesto includes the highest volume of policies aimed at the maritime sector, which could allow it to hold on to coastal communities and win votes from constituents with ties to the sector.  

“We will back our maritime sector, including shipping and ports, as it decarbonises.”

This headline promise appears to recognise the challenges the sector is facing as the world demands it works towards net zero.  

“Freeports have already generated just under £3 billion in investment, which in turn will create thousands of jobs. We will extend this opportunity to more areas and set out an application round in the next Parliament.” 

Freeports and “investment zones” have been a key policy, and current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has lauded the success in attracting development and investments to areas like Teesside in the north east of England. 

“We will support Freeports and investment zones in Scotland and Wales, delivering jobs and investment from the Cromarty Firth to Port Talbot, and establish an Enhanced Investment Zone in Northern Ireland.”

This promise to extend this policy outside of England is part of a wider policy of “Levelling Up” to bring benefits of an economy the Conservatives say has returned to growth across the whole UK. 

Green Party

The furthest “left” of the mainstream political parties (those that are likely to win seats in Parliament), the Green Party focuses on the environment and this is reflected in its transport-related manifesto promises. Achieving net zero quickly is key to the Green’s promise. 

“MPs will aim to introduce new support and incentives to directly accelerate wind energy development, consulting with the sector on the best mechanisms, including increasing the maximum contracts for difference strike price so that it more accurately reflects supply chain costs and leads to the contracting of new capacity, and equipping ports and supply chains to better support floating offshore wind.”

The party’s key port policy is to facilitate the growth of wind energy, via boosts to offshore windfarms. It says the investment will allow more ports to be the “base” for floating wind energy facilities. 

“Removal of business rate relief on Enterprise Zones, Freeports, petrol stations and most empty properties.”

This policy is a clear swipe at the Conservatives’ landmark Freeport and “economic zones” with less regulation or tax enforcement. 

“We would support and rapidly increase the use of green hydrogen for necessary industrial use and energy storage technologies, seeking investment opportunities through academic-industry partnership.”

Although the promise to advance green hydrogen production would benefit the shipping industry, and manufacturers that are pivoting to hydrogen-fuelled ships, it would not be limited to the transport sector. 


The Labour Party, on the centre-left of the UK political spectrum, have been the official opposition since it lost the 2010 election. 

Its policy promises also focus on port infrastructure and facilities, and green hydrogen. 

Unlike other parties, Labour’s manifesto puts a figure on its planned investment in ports and supply chain infrastructure. It promises to spend £1.8bn ($2.2bn) over the five-year parliament. 

The party also pledge “£500m ($632m) to support the manufacturing of green hydrogen.”

Both of these policies will be funded via the “National Wealth Fund” the party says it will create. 

“Labour’s National Wealth Fund will directly invest in ports, hydrogen and industrial clusters in every corner of the country. We will also secure the future of Britain’s automotive and steel industries.” 

Liberal Democrats 

The Liberal Democrats are widely seen as the “third party” in UK politics, although there has been some suggestion in the media and from polling companies that the Lib Dems (as they are known) could overtake the Conservatives and become the second largest party, the opposition. 

The party’s manifesto is light on the maritime front, but again the Lib Dems promise to invest in green hydrogen and the storage facilities the new fuel would need. 

“Investing in energy storage, including green hydrogen, pumped storage and battery capability.” 

This pledge comes under the party’s climate change and energy policy section. 

Reform Party

The Reform Party, which used to be known as the Brexit Party, is largely an electoral vehicle for firebrand politician and Brexit architect Nigel Farage. 

Although the right-wing party mainly canvasses voters on issues such as immigration and government spending, its manifesto is broad and includes several pledges which would affect the shipping and maritime industry, if it won enough seats to form a government. 

“Scrap net zero and related subsidies: Ditching net zero could save the public sector over £30bn ($37bn) per year for the next 25 years.” 

Reform’s promise to “scrap net zero” targets would ease some pressure on the UK’s domestic shipping sector to invest in change, but is unlikely to affect the global trade as the International Maritime Organisation and other major states are committed to the environmental policy.  

“Scrap annual £10bn of renewable energy subsidies: Achieve this through equivalent taxes on them. Renewables are not cheaper. Our bills have increased dramatically in line with the huge increase in renewables capacity over the last 15 years.”

Likewise, this policy might make the short-term cheaper for the UK-based shipping sector as less investment would be needed to convert existing ships or buy new ships with engines that run on “green” fuels. But it is unclear how the global sector would react, or how port investing in offshore wind tech would be affected. 

Scottish National Party 

Although the SNP only stand in Scotland, and campaigns for Scottish independence from the UK, the party has a significant presence in the UK parliament and presents policies that it would implement in Scotland and push the UK Government to administer more widely. 

“The UK Government must also fully support the production and use of sustainable bridging fuels in the maritime and aviation sectors.” 

The SNP mention the use of “bridging fuels” which would aim to ease the transition to net zero for the maritime industry, but do not expand on which fuels it would support. 

“Promote Scotland’s hydrogen export potential. Scotland is well placed to supply significant amounts of hydrogen to continental Europe. SNP MPs will press for the UK Government to secure progress with direct interconnection between Scotland and the continent, and regulatory agreement to unlock Scotland’s renewable potential.”

However, the SNP is clear that it wants Scotland to be a leader on hydrogen production for use across industry and the transport sectors. While Scotland’s extensive and often remote coastline means it is “well placed” to pivot away from North Sea oil and gas, towards renewables. 

A hydrogen pipeline to Europe would be politically contentious, especially since Brexit, but the pledge showed the party’s commitment to the renewable energy transition.