The Blue Economy is increasingly being recognised for its potential around sustainable economic opportunities, booming visitor demand and ability to be used for artisan food production and Guernsey is superbly positioned to play a major role and benefit from involvement.
‘On an infrastructure level, our organisation has been made aware by those in the marine economy that substantial repair and improvement is needed around the town harbour before even more innovative changes are made. It’s a challenging situation: Do you carry out potentially costly repairs when a ‘big picture’ project might make some of that redundant?’
As our state sector ponders the shape of harbour and coastal improvements for our island, the UN recently called for the private sector to take a key role in helping the Blue Economy to further develop and provide opportunity, coupled with environmental benefits for all. Chamber has been lobbying for a considerable time for a public/private partnership which the organisation believes is needed to drive change. We have watched in frustration as both our French neighbours in Carteret and Jersey have surged ahead with projects. Our organisation has a particularly strong relationship with harbour coastal improvement having been formed originally to press for appropriate redevelopment: that item took 90 years to achieve with the previous century’s harbour project – and our modern-day resolve is still strong.
Our island is perfectly placed to benefit from several aspects of this important sector. While we recognise the need to identify our amazing island’s unique opportunities, there are identified strategies and economic benefits already created: we don’t aim to reinvent the wheel when resource can be obtained from specialist sources. The Blue Economy aim, in line with UN intention is for ‘Economic activity in balance with the long-term capacity of ocean ecosystems to support this activity and remain resilient and healthy.’ This is
a long-term strategy aimed at supporting sustainable economic growth through oceans-related sectors and activities, ‘while, at the same time, improving human wellbeing and social equity and preserving the environment’, as the UN eloquently puts it. It also makes clear that ‘Business is the engine for trade, economic growth and jobs’.
Private sector tourism investment has been identified as a key economic drive post Covid. Studies show that tourists are willing to pay more for safer vacations and the Covid recovery could contribute as they look for more eco-friendly solutions for holidays and have a greater appreciation of areas of beauty such as the coast. This is described as a ‘transformative opportunity’ and will require speed of response to capitalise on it. In addition to the strong visitor economy, there is identified need internationally for renewable energy, sustainable and highly nutritious food, for clean alternatives to plastics… and much more.
Coastal tourism is the biggest ‘golden ticket’ of all. Swimming, sunbathing, coastal walks, nautical sports such as sailing, diving, windsurfing, kayaking and paddle boarding, are all expected to soar in demand for short haul destinations as visitors opt to stay relatively close to home in the next few years. Chamber is encouraging the emergence and further development of businesses able to provide this type of sustainable tourism. Our organisation is hopeful that the leisure economy element of any east coast redevelopment will be included in future harbour plans as earlier offerings concentrated almost entirely on commercial use and leisure boating rather than additional options.
Another aspect of the Blue Economy which our island is already known for is its superb seafood. Extra development potential exists around using our seas for additional food production. This, coupled with the extremely high standard of our existing offers, helps to strengthen the visitor offer and enables our island residents to eat healthy, sustainably sourced local food from our immediate vicinity.
The Blue Economy’s scope is broad and complex. It also incorporates potential for marine renewable energy and Chamber is aware of several schemes which have been proposed. Our huge tidal range brings a substantial opportunity with wave and tidal energy a core focus in international projects. Chamber is fortunate to have expert insight from those working in the Blue Economy and our volunteers help to identify both quick wins and longer term opportunities.
During the shelf life of this publication, the States will be asked to consider the provision of larger vessel mooring in the Pool area of the Town harbour. Chamber’s Blue Economy expert John Cook, who has a long and global track record in super yacht management, says there are many economic ‘wins’ for our island without the need to permanently accommodate large vessels. ‘We need them to be able to visit and moor alongside for provisioning, fuel take-on and for the (extremely highly paid) crews to go ashore and spend their earnings. The potential is considerable because Guernsey is on the delivery and maintenance route between Europe and the trans-Atlantic routes and the northern ship building yards.
‘We already have a few vessels coming in to fuel up but the facilities beyond that are not good and they cannot easily tie up alongside or enable crew – and occasionally owners – to wander ashore and enjoy our shops and restaurants. The overall number which could be attracted here is considerable. There is no need for Guernsey to try to become some sort of Monaco with permanent moorings: we just need to offer them short term facilities and send them on their way.’
Chamber has signed up to the international Islands Innovation network to keep abreast of Blue Economy developments and will be looking to engage closely with the NFP going forward. We are also in touch with British Marine and receive updates from the RYA around sustainability and opportunities.
Boating and sailing are changing as rapidly as the rest of this exciting sector as electrification gains pace and a focus is developed on keeping the seas clean (or cleaner) as part of commercial and leisure activity. British Marine and Superyacht UK recently announced a new E1 race series of powerboats. The electric race series was created to highlight and promote environmentally- friendly water craft.
Chamber has received independent advice from those working in the Blue Economy sector and has been assured that there are impressive quick wins achievable. The ideas include reaching out to sailing organisations to see our island used more often for large- scale regattas and to consider creating skills programmes for electric vessels because demand is expected to soar in the next few years and there is a dire shortage of marine engineers trained in this area.
On an infrastructure level, our organisation has been made aware by those in the marine economy that substantial repair and improvement is needed around the Town harbour before even more innovative changes are made. It’s a challenging situation: do you carry out potentially costly repairs when a ‘big picture’ project might make some of that redundant? During the decade that Chamber has put forward proposals and lobbied for something tangible to start, our eastern seaboard focal point has continued to deteriorate. We are closely awaiting the next step and will work hard to try to ensure that the sector, and our island as a whole, can benefit from moving with the times.