Haven Gateway: John Winn on how the EU is like the curate’s egg

“GOOD in parts” – these words were (you may remember) how the curate described his boiled egg in his cautious thanks to the bishop for his breakfast.

Much the same can be said of the European Union as the politicians get ‘back to school’ this autumn. Greece will not rush to repay its debt, the markets will fluctuate wildly and everything you need will cost you more when Christmas comes. You read it here first.

So, should we just throw in the towel and (mixing our metaphors) take our bat and ball home after a referendum? Now this is not a political column and, if that is what the nation wants, so be it. The press, rightly, never fails to highlight many examples of over-governance from Brussels but, in parallel to that, perhaps it would be worth highlighting some practical examples of how the European Experiment has brought benefit to the nation and in particular to that geographical area we know as the Haven Gateway.

It is not always easy to convince people to take a reasoned view about the EU. It is a bit like Marmite; you can love it or you can hate it – but to say it is great on white toast but awful on biscuits just proves that you are confused. And that is indeed the argument, so let us leave the negatives to one side, or for others, and look at some examples of positives which have been available to the Haven Gateway from the EU connection.

Without doubt, the Haven Gateway has benefited from its involvement in several high-profile European Union projects – from Dryport, which concluded earlier this year, to the ongoing Cruise Gateway North Sea and Port Integration project.

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Through these projects, the Haven Gateway has raised its profile, confirmed its position as a centre of maritime excellence (as identified by the EC), made valuable new contacts and connections, and shared experiences, expertise and best practice with port and maritime colleagues from around Europe.

A key project – as outlined by my colleague Lisa Brazier alongside this column – is the Low Carbon Freight Dividend, which developed as a result of our involvement in the Dryport project, through which we were able to create our unique web-based Containerised Cargo Carbon Calculator.

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Our involvement in Cruise Gateway North Sea is helping to raise the profile of Harwich International Port – a major cruise hub – and bringing a new perspective and potential for attracting cruise lines and their passengers to our region. This month we will host the project’s mid-term conference, welcoming partners from key ports around the North Sea to Colchester and Harwich. It’s a great opportunity to demonstrate what we can offer to the sector, in terms of heritage, landscape, towns and coast, food and arts, as well as the cruise facilities at the port.

Earlier this year, through both Port Integration and Dryport, the Haven Gateway was well represented at European Maritime Day, which featured presentations and debates on the theme of ‘sustainable growth from the oceans, seas and coasts: blue growth’. Held in Gothenburg, this conference was an invaluable opportunity to learn more about (and speak up on) the opportunities, the challenges and the fragility of the world’s oceans, from a very broad range of perspectives.

In short, Europe has opened doors for the Haven Gateway – doors to funding, knowledge, useful contacts, new business and a whole new perspective.

: : John Winn is chairman of the Haven Gateway Partnership’s private business forum.

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