The Society of Maritime Industries (SMI) was formed from the British Marine Equipment Council in 2001. Launched from an experimental warship known as RV Triton moored in the Pool of London, SMI soon became the trade association of choice for all UK based companies working in the field of maritime engineering and with a focus in six market sectors.
The British Marine Equipment Council was formed in 1966 and during the 1970s evolved four divisions with the names Naval, Fishing, Offshore and Safety. In April 1978 these divisions were given formal direct representation on the BMEC Board and in October 1979 it was decided to evolve the division concept further by the formation of a Commercial Marine Division which held its inaugural meeting on 21 May 1980.
Concurrently with this the Board minutes of 5 December 1979 show it was proposed that the divisions should be named associations with the intention of applying the new names from 1 October 1980. The names of these divisions were:
- British Naval Equipment Association (BNEA)
- British Offshore Equipment Association (BOEA)
- British Merchant Marine Equipment Association (BMMEA)
- British Workboat Equipment Association (BWEA)
- British Fishing and Small Vessel Equipment Association
There was even a proposal to consider forming in the future:
- British Nautical Instrument Trade Association (BNITA)
- British Ports and Terminals Equipment Association (BPTEA)
The catalyst for this idea appears to have been early discussions with the Association of British Offshore Industries, then a separately run organisation, which was determining its future and considering a merger with the Offshore Division within BMEC. In the event the merger of the BOEA and ABOI took place in December 1982 and ABOI became one of BMEC’s associations. Before that in April 1981, BMEC created the British Oil Spill Control Association (BOSCA).
Clearly there was some rationalisation of these association names as the industry itself contracted and initially Ports and Terminals Group (PTG) was affiliated to BMEC on its creation in the late 1990s. The launch of the Society of Maritime Industries in July 2001 to replace BMEC fully incorporated PTG and in 2004 the Association of Marine Scientific Industries (AMSI), which had been a separate association based with the Society of Underwater Technologies, came under the Society of Maritime Industries.
Ever mindful of the need to respond to changing markets the SMI Board decided to create a further group in 2009 with the formation of the Maritime Security & Safety Group (MSSG).
Subsequently, the SMI Board decided to phase out the individual association and group brands and to bring all of them under the single brand of Society of Maritime Industries. As a result the only historic link to the old association and group names can be found in the names of the Councils which provide the focus for the business interest areas of SMI. These interest areas were expanded to seven in 2016 with the addition of maritime autonomous systems which is overseen by the MAS Council.