UK: Shipping industry unites in call for government action on seafarer numbers


In response to a new report which warns of chronic UK seafarer skills shortages by 2026, all sides of the shipping industry have united to call for urgent government action to tackle a growing crisis in UK maritime training and employment.

The Department for Transport UK Seafarer Projections report warns that the supply of British deck and engineer officers is set to fall by more than 30% over the next decade. The future supply of UK deck and engine ratings to the industry is expected to decline by as much as 16%, based on age of the current workforce and low numbers of trainee ratings.

The annual UK Seafarer Statistics report shows that the number of certificated UK officers working at sea fell 3% last year ― with the total of 10,650 being 22% down over the past decade. The number of UK deck and engine ratings again declined, by 8% and 15% respectively over the same period, and the total number of UK ratings at sea has fallen 25% in the last five years to the 2016 total of 8,880.

The total number of UK seafarers has fallen by over 14% since 2006, to just over 23,000.
Last year also witnessed a 3% decline in the number of officer cadets in training ― and the number of new entrants under the Support for Maritime Training (SMarT1) scheme fell to 750 ― a decrease of 9% from 2014/15.

Chamber of Shipping CEO Guy Platten said: “Industry and unions are united in their ambition to reverse the long-standing downwards trend in seafarer recruitment and training. Together we have developed a proposal for an enhanced Support for Maritime Training regime that would see more seafarers being trained in return for additional government support. Seafarers are among the most productive workers in the country, and the economic case for government action is clear.

“The UK is one of the world leaders in maritime services, but we will only keep it that way if we have a constant supply of seafarers developing their experience and expertise. We know that young people want a career at sea, and we know companies want to invest in skills ― we just need government to back the industry.”

Nautilus General Secretary Mark Dickinson added: “These are deeply disturbing statistics for an island nation. This should be a wake-up call for the government to deliver on the policy promises made in the Maritime Growth Study. The time for talking is over ― this is a critical industry and we really need to take tangible action to safeguard the employment and training of British seafarers into the future.”
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: ‘Today’s Seafarer Statistics again highlight the crisis facing UK seafarers who continue to be replaced by non-domiciled seafarers. The supply of UK ratings to the industry remains a trickle and maritime unions and the shipping industry agree that the government need to get an immediate handle on the number of Ratings the industry must train over the next decade in order to avoid a dangerous and destabilising skills deficit.

“UK seafarer training and skills must be a central component in the industrial strategy currently being drawn up by the government, otherwise we risk losing control of our economic future. The maritime unions and industry have proved through the Maritime Apprenticeship Trailblazer Working Group and Tonnage Tax reform that we can work together. It is now up to the government to clear the barriers to training the next generation of UK ratings and officers.”

Source: UK Chamber of Shipping

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