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Marine sector takes to the high seas of exports

As we welcome 2014, British businesses across the board are set to benefit as global trade continues to expand. While this is an exciting start for businesses across the board, the globally-focused marine sector is particularly well placed to reap the rewards of international growth. The UK, as an island nation, has always had a thriving marine sector and is known across the world for its high quality and cutting edge innovation. With international trade accounting for 60% of turnover in some companies, it is unsurprising that this inventive and energetic sector continues to be hugely popular with overseas markets, particularly in Asia and South America.

I have spent most of my professional life in the marine sector, and my experiences in it are as diverse as the sector itself. Beginning in the Royal Navy in the early 1990s and then running international sales for a marine electronics company, I have come to know much about the challenges and opportunities that the sector has to offer, as well as how lucrative British marine products are becoming, particularly in the emerging economies.

Since becoming a UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) International Trade Adviser seven years ago, I have been able to apply these experiences of the sector to directly help those looking to export in areas as disparate as the selling of British super yachts in the United States to the distribution of cutting edge anti-piracy technology in the Far East. And the picture is looking increasingly rosy for businesses who are exporting. Last year, the UK marine sector contributed £19 billion to gross national GDP and employed over 360,000 people, a figure I strongly expect to increase this year. In commercial shipping, for instance, exports are beginning to expand beyond the traditional US and European markets to Vietnam and Japan - as well as South Korea, China, India and Brazil.

Similarly, for those operating in the leisure sector, increasing consumer demand and a growing affluent class in South America and Asia - particularly China - look set to expand this high value market even further as demand for high-end luxury goods continues to grow. Whether you're in commercial shipping, the leisure market, marine electronics or navigation, UKTI is available to help you to reach these high growth markets and get you on the way to global exporting success. 

As UKTI International Trade Advisers, it is our job to apply our experiences of the sector to provide expertise, advice and support to businesses looking to expand their operations overseas. Depending on your area, trade advisers like me are at hand to introduce you to new markets, help you with market research and build a bespoke export plan suited to your business. 

Likewise, we can signpost you to the many workshops, seminars and networking events designed specifically to get you on your way to export success. Recently, our 'Meet the Buyer' event at the London Boat Show, in conjunction with the British Marine Federation, helped connect buyers and sellers of marine products and services. We also facilitated free one-to-one meetings with UKTI marine specialists.  

There are many more events on the horizon, too. With the Brazilian shipbuilding workshop and the Miami Boat show coming up, 2014 is already looking like an active year for UKTI and the marine sector. Just as enthusiastic is the new Trade Minister, Lord Livingstone, who is naturally focused on driving forward our high target of doubling exports by 2020.

One such firm worked with their local international trade adviser was Dryad Maritime Intelligence Service, which helps ships deal with the threat of piracy. Since contacting UKTI in 2010, they have grown from five to 35 staff and increased their turnover by 796% to £1.9 million. They attended a market visit to China with UKTI and received consistent advice and support which eventually helped them to expand their operations across the Far East. 

Likewise, Griffin Hoverworks, a hovercraft manufacturer based in Southampton, worked with UKTI and was able to secure a visit of four prestigious ambassadors from across the world to their headquarters. Some 95% of the firm's sales come from export and so the visit was essential to secure further orders and build a presence across the Far East. 

As 2014 kicks off, and as global opportunities continue to mount for the British marine sector, it is my hope that those considering exporting will approach UKTI as Dryad and Griffin Hoverworks have done by calling 020 7215 5000, engage with the services we have to offer, and make 2014 the year that your business goes global.
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