Tuesday, January 5, 2021

A Qualified Sense of Relief Amongst Maritime Stakeholders as Britain Finally Exits the EU Fold

Professional Mariners Union Sums Up the Mood of the Industry and Raises Some Concerns
Shipping News Feature

UK – EUROPE – Considering the importance of the event many stakeholders have seemed somewhat reticent when it comes to passing comment on the quality of the deal under which Britain finally exited the EU.

The mood of the bulk of the shipping industry is generally seen to match that of the Nautilus International Union, which has cautiously welcomed approval of the future trade agreement with the European Union (EU) following its acceptance by the House of Commons.

There was an almost audible collective sigh of relief from the logistics sector at the news and, whilst the deal does not include many of the assurances that the Union and others have been seeking during the last four years, it does mean that a no-deal Brexit has been avoided.

The continuation of tariff-free trade with the European Union has come as a relief to the UK maritime and logistics sectors and beyond, especially in light of the problems that delays in trade can cause, as was seen when many countries closed borders to the UK due to the new variant of the Covid-19 virus just before Christmas.

However, while the agreement will avert some of the likely downside caused by the UK defaulting to World Trade Organization rules on 1 January 2021, Nautilus has warned that much of the detail still needs to be resolved before the full impact on the UK maritime sector, and UK seafarers and the legality of their professional certification, can be fully understood.

We have illustrated in previous articles how the exit from the EU will impact aspects other than the simple transfer of goods, some very relevant to such as the Nautilus membership of 20,000+ maritime professionals, including the flagging requirements for non EU registered vessels, meaning UK ships, now with 'third country' status, sailing under the red ensign and trading in European Community waters.

The 1,200+ page agreement was finally reached by the EU and UK on Christmas Eve, and passed by Parliament on 30 December, just two days before the New Year's Day deadline. This left next to no time for the maritime sector to adjust to any unexpected arrangements to cross border trade, which the Union has warned will lead to a bumpy road ahead. Commenting, Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson said:

”We have been clear from the start that a no-deal Brexit would have serious implications for UK seafarers and the UK maritime sector more widely, so we welcome the fact that this deal has been approved.

”However, our members working on ships of other EU shipping registers still need reassurances that their Certificates of Competency will continue to be recognised and what steps will be taken to expedite this recognition.

”Alongside this, the UK government needs to stand by its commitment to maintaining standards and parity with Europe on for example social and employment standards and not engage in a new race to the bottom.”

Photo: A modern bridge system (Courtesy of Kongsberg Maritime).