Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour
Release Date:
Thursday, 26 January 2023 - 5:11pm

Statement by the Honourable Melvin M. Turnbull

Minister for Natural Resources and Labour

Second Sitting of the Fifth Session of the Fourth House of Assembly

26th January 2023

MOU between Southampton University, UK and the BVI Government

Madam Speaker, on Thursday 19th January, The Honourable Premier Dr. Natalio Wheatley during his recent official visit to the UK, signed into effect a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the BVI Government and the prestigious University of Southampton. The University’s Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute (SMMI) & Public Policy Southampton (PPS) in fact have a previously established partnership with the BVI Government around environmental efforts, in place since the previous administration.

A press release would have been released about the MOU signing, but since the area of interest falls under my remit as Minister for Natural Resources and Labour, I wish to delve further into what specifically may be expected from this newly formed partnership Madam Speaker. We cannot speak about the economy of the BVI, or even our reputation, without acknowledging the importance of our natural resources being preserved and further developed. This partnership therefore creates opportunities to help secure the BVI tourism product, our overall quality of life, and the success of the blue economy, for generations to come.

Madam Speaker, I must add as well that Southampton University ranks amongst the top 100 universities in the world, and is hence amongst the top 1% of all the world's educational institutions.  Their Marine and Maritime Institute is the largest entity of its kind in the world, with expertise in everything from naval architecture to the social sciences. Here are some of the ways in which our environmental units and our educational institutions will benefit from this Memorandum of Understanding over the next five years and possibly years to follow:

  1. The exchange of scientific, academic, and technical information and materials of mutual interest, to also include organisation and participation in joint activities such as seminars and conferences.
  2. Mutual visits of faculty and school members to pursue research and innovation opportunities.
  3. The opportunity to join in research and development in disciplines of mutual interest.
  4. Development of joint research funding applications on areas of mutual interest; and
  5. Identification of opportunities for commercialisation of technology.

Madam Speaker on 30th November last year Cabinet approved the Blue Economy Roadmap, which strategises the future development of our waters.  What I don’t think most persons realise is that we in the Virgin Islands, are stewards of more water than we are of land.  The experts at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour report that we have the rights and responsibilities to 80,117 km2 (square kilometres) of ocean real estate, which is some 500 times more than our land real estate.

Therefore, Madam Speaker, this MOU with the University of Southampton is actually an investment in this territory that is far reaching.  We are a small island developing state, with the opportunity to develop existing ocean-based sectors such as Fisheries and Tourism, as well as create new sectors, but are now much more empowered to do so while still ensuring our ocean’s sustainable use. I wish to thank the Premier and his delegation for their representation and for not just understanding, but also supporting the work of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour.  I thank you Madam Speaker.