Seawork is a Southampton success story

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In conversation

Andrew Webster

CEO Mercator Media Seawork

Every year deals worth hundreds of millions of pounds are struck in Southampton at what has become one of  the most important dates in the calendar for the commercial marine industry.

The numbers for Seawork are impressive. Over three days in June each year, 615 exhibitors from 70 countries converge on the city to show 10,000 products and services to nearly 8,000 visitors (and the vast majority of them are decision-makers with money to spend).

The show alone boosts the Southampton hospitality economy by £3m and deals done total hundreds of millions of pounds.

Everything from computer software and control systems to 30 metre windfarm support vessels can be purchased at the only commercial marine exhibition in the world where the audience can climb aboard vessels and floating plant.

Seawork started in June 1998 in Southampton with Mercator Media identifying a market opportunity when the National Workboats Exhibition folded. Initially located in and around the QEII cruise terminal in Southampton’s eastern docks attracting 84 exhibitors and around 1,300 visitors, Seawork will celebrate it’s 20th year in 2017, and the event now has an enviable reputation.

“The people who come to Seawork are high-calibre, high-spending professionals who recognise the wealth of innovation and expertise on offer. It is a ‘one-stop shop’ for the European commercial marine business.

“As well as coming to the exhibition, it has become an important networking event for a group of people based around the UK, the Western Seaboard and Europe.

“They are all in one place at the same time and that means there is a great deal of networking and meetings taking place,” explained Andrew Webster, CEO of Mercator Media who founded and has grown the annual event in Southampton.

The city has always been a centre for marine and maritime business in the UK and it isat the heart of the Solent maritime cluster.

Southampton has strong commercial marine infrastructure and its geography makes it an ideal place to host Seawork.

“The travel connections and accommodation make it very easy for our visitors to arrive by air or ferry,” said Andrew.

“In many respects the commercial marine businesses are leading the way with technology in terms of tackling environmental pressures and reducing fuel consumption which helps to keep costs down.

“If you come to Seawork you can see offshore support vessels and wind farm support vessels built with the latest carbon technology and very sophisticated propulsion systems.

“These vessels have to go out in really adverse conditions and work for 300 days a year.

The design and technology is much more sophisticated than you find in leisure craft.

“We are seeing more and more superyacht designers and senior engineers coming along to Seawork – they have a lot more in common with wind farm vessels and they are seeing what they need to do next,” explained Andrew.

The influence of Seawork is spreading beyond our shores and Mercator Media have launched an event sharing the same name in China.

Seawork Asia is planning its second event in Shanghai and a Chinese delegation came to Southampton’s event in 2016.

As well as Seawork being a significant success for the city, Mercator Media has established itself as a niche publishing company that knows how to create and disseminate the vital content that moves markets.

The Fareham based company which employs 55 people has built a portfolio of overseas conferences and exhibitions centred on the marine and maritime sector and Andrew strongly believes their success has come down to focusing on their strengths.

“We are a small B2B media company that has concentrated on this niche market and now we find ourselves putting on events in Venice, Singapore and the Icelandic Fisheries Exhibition & Awards – which has become the most important commercial fishing event of the north,”he said.

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Interested in visting or exhibiting at Seawork 2017 in Southampton?