While the government continues to debate the process of leaving the EU and to get Brexit going I think it’s time we got on with looking at the future. What we need to do is focus on creative and innovative ideas to build an economy free from EU interference. In the years that I have been studying Earth sciences and exploring the Britain’s own tourist attractions by rail I have been thinking about ways in which we could create a new tourist industry that can generate wealth for localism.
As it stands Britain’s once famous seaside resorts are in a state of terminal decline or lost business years ago, our shipbuilding industry is operating good at a fraction of it’s once great former size and the sea ferry ports around our coast have lost vast amounts of business to the Chunnel or the airlines. But that can change with a very bright idea inspired by a non-EU country we do buisness with that has a model for post-EU success for Britain.
Norway has a coastal express service that operates along most of the Norweigian coast. Years ago I looked into a holiday brochure from a cruise company called Hurtigruten, which runs a premier coastal cruise service along Norway from Bergen to Kirkennes. This service is a lifeblood of the local economy in the ports that it calls to and is a very big industry. With a fleet of ships it brings people from all over the world to a treasure trove of wonders covering the local natural environment, the towns’ culture, cuisine, art and the best tourist attractions that can not be bought by a budget airline.
This got me thinking about bringing the best out of localism in Britain and a chance to bring back sea traffic to the coast, rebuild and energise the seaside that we would all like to be beside once again. In the days of the Victorian Britain the seaside attractions were big business and when we went on the cheap flights to Europe, they either died out or reduced their activities. But I reckon Norway’s model of turning it’s fjords into coastal holiday destinations has the potential to revive the localised tourist industry along the British coastal towns.
We might not have the natural attractions that Norway has but we have some beautiful serene and glamourous shores for people to see. With the best marine conservation societies, nostalgic attractions and fun filled adventures we have the most breath-taking sights. The White Cliffs of Dover, the seafronts and ports of Southend, Great Yarmouth, Dorset, Aberystwyth, and Leith, and of course there is the marvellous nature walks in places like Sandwood Bay in Sunderland, Cornish beaches and Loch Hourn in West Highlands. We have the potential to make the British coast the most beautiful natural sea voyage in the North Sea.
With the idea of a coastal express service the other industry destined for growth in this venture is the shipbuilding industry. At present the shipyards haven’t got much productivity and orders for ship building. Most of them are operating in vessel repairs and making offshore renewable powerplants. In 2013 the order for commercial ships in China was 2000, South Korea had 747, Norway had 53 and the EU nations of Spain, France and Germany had just 28. It wasn’t just because of cheap labour and materials that killed off British shipbuilding, it was also because of a lack of subsidies from the government, world recessions and an inflated sterling that made them too expensive to buy.
Leaving the EU will be a boon to the shipbuilding industry in Britain. Most of Hurtigruten’s fleet is built in Norway and is subsidised by the government. The EU has a rule on state funded subsidies for shipbuilding in which the state can only fund specific parts of the shipyard which is investment in new equipment and facilities. The European Commission has chased a number of shipbuilders in it’s member states who have misused the funds for the day to day running of the yard. In 1999 the EC fined a Norweigian engineering firm called Kvaener for spending more on a capacity limit on a German shipyard using 614 million euros of German state aid it acquired to restructure the shipyard. Another shipbuilding firm in Spain was also targetted by Brussels in 2013 for the state subsidies it recieved from the Spanish government. The EU ruled it illegal to recieve this aid money and insisted that it should be repaid, putting 87’000 jobs at risk and aggravating the country’s already dramatic unemployment problem.
With Brexit we can revitalise the shipbuilding industry with the building of these coastal express liners. Since these ships will be for coastal operations they need not be so big and expensive to build or run. The average size of these pleasure ships is only a tenth of the size of the Queen Mary 2. Take the average stats of the Hurtigruten fleet. They are about 350 feet long, 65 feet wide, a tonnage of 11’000 and carry around 650 people and some of them take up to a dozen cars. Just enough to allow for docking at small ports and seaside resorts on journeys that can take up to 10 days to circumnavigate the entire length of the British coastline.
This is an opportunity for the shipyards of Britain to redeem themselves and build a new industry. A generation of voters have started to become fed up with globalisation and want to explore an age of localism where the state provides for it’s own people and creates opportunities for the small businesses instead. The seaside resorts and the local harbours will be able to sell their own produce, offer attractions and exotic hotels. Some of these cruises can also include expeditions to shorelines which have no settlements so that the locals can explore wildlife and natural wonders.
This is just the kind of British holiday that we can offer to the tourists of the world. I think it would make a magnificent attraction that would show just how naturally wealthy we are.