Johnny Mercer MP says that Plymouth’s marine science leadership is the latest chapter in our City’s rich seafaring heritage.

Just weeks after being elected in 2015, I stood up in Parliament and declared that the “resilient yet ever-evolving Janner character has seen us become a haven for marine science in the south-west”. Eight years on, that virtue has never been truer.

Plymouth’s marine science leadership is the latest chapter in our City’s rich seafaring heritage. It sits in one of the world’s largest natural harbours, Plymouth Sound. The Sound shelters the biggest naval dockyard in Western Europe, Devonport, providing vital support for the Royal Navy since 1691. The Devonport Naval Heritage Centre and Mayflower Museum plot defining moments in British seafaring history which began right here in Plymouth. It is my belief that our harbour acts as a golden thread, linking our past to our future.

Thanks to Plymouth Sound, history continues to be made in Plymouth. In July 2022, Marlin Submarines’s (MSubs) Mayflower Autonomous Ship completed the world’s first fully autonomous transatlantic crossing. The vessel set its course from Plymouth, UK to our twin city, Plymouth, Massachusetts, with stops in the Azores and Halifax. Projects like MSubs’s put Plymouth on the map and demonstrate that it is an entrepreneurial, forward-facing city. With shipbuilding 40 times the national average, Britain’s Ocean City is truly deserving of its nickname

In 2019, the Government announced Plymouth Sound as the UK’s first National Marine Park. It received a £9.5m grant in July 2021 and an additional bid of £11.6m has been made to the National Lottery Heritage Fund to make its vision of ‘a park in the sea’ a reality. This new status and funding will encourage greater prosperity and engagement with our marine environment, something I wholeheartedly support.

Just last October, the Government selected our region as the UK’s Marine and Maritime Launchpad and awarded it £7.5m. This will unlock Innovation UK funding from £25,000 to £1m to support SMEs driving innovation in the South West – a funding competition which I enthusiastically promoted.

Plymouth’s Freeport is key to the future growth ambitions of the sector. Oceansgate has transformed 35 hectares of disused Ministry of Defence land into a Marine Enterprise Zone. This site sits within South Yard which is a key part of the new Plymouth Freeport. We are already seeing the Freeport attract millions of pounds in government grants and private sector investment. I have written with the other Plymouth MPs to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to ensure that we foster a business environment which can meet the growth ambitions of this once-in-a-generation opportunity.