Historically, the region’s coastal areas – its ports and fisheries, major resort towns and clusters of industry – have been instrumental in driving its economy and today the North West maintains a thriving maritime economy. Liverpool is a port of national significance and other ports like Barrow, Fleetwood, Heysham, Workington, Whitehaven, Garston and the Manchester Ship Canal continue to provide employment. All provide important landfall sites for servicing offshore operations such as oil and gas, fisheries and newer industries like offshore wind farms. Disused areas of dockland, for example in Liverpool, Sefton, Barrow, Whitehaven, and Maryport, are now providing significant opportunities for regeneration, bringing new employment to previously derelict and economically depressed areas.

Like the much of rest of the UK, the North West offshore area has ideal conditions ripe for generating wind energy and, as of Winter 2011, wind farms operational in the Irish Sea off the NW coast currently generate a capacity of 364MW from sites at Burbo Bank, Walney & Barrow. However, windfarms with a further 834 MW of generating power are either under construction or have been approved. There is also an ongoing tidal energy project in the Mersey estuary, with plans to generate up to 900 GW/yr, depending on the preferred scheme chosen. Planning applications aim to be submitted in early 2012 and, if successful, a generator could be operational by 2020. Liverpool Bay also has important oil & gas fields, with a permament platform 20km offshore

In Lancashire and Cumbria, nuclear energy is an important sector of the local economy with sites at Heysham and Sellafield providing thousands of jobs for several decades. Its importance in the local economy will continue well into the future, despite the decommissioning of the Calder Hall power station at Sellafield in 2004, as the reprocessing plant there continues to operate and Heysham has been named by the Government as a potential site for accommodating  future reactors.

Traditionally, the region’s tourism industry is a major employer, thanks to large resorts like Blackpool and Southport, and smaller ones such as West Kirby, Silloth, Morecambe and Lytham and St Annes. Changes in national tourism patterns have led the region to take a fresh look at its own offering and to encourage the economic diversification of many of its resorts so as to combat declining tourist revenue and associated social deprivation.

At the same time, an increased interest in ecological (“green”) issues and recreation (“activity”) holidays is giving rise to new opportunities for themed short breaks that help to extend the tourist season. Spring and Autumn are key times of the year for bird watching and new activities like kite surfing are joining more traditional pastimes like golf and sea angling on the roster of popular coastal activities.