Friday, January 16, 2015

Maritime Union Attacks Government Training Policy as 'Catastrophic'

Shipowners and State Must do More to Protect and Promote Shipping Industry
Shipping News Feature

UK – Nautilus International, the trade union and professional organisation for maritime professionals at sea and ashore, has launched an attack on government support for the training of UK seafarers which it says needs to be dramatically increased if the nation is to avoid a serious maritime skills shortage within the next decade. The union is calling for the UK to take full advantage of the European Union state aid guidelines to ensure that shipowners receive more help with the costs of training British seafarers.

Nautilus also says shipowners should redouble their efforts to recruit and train British seafarers, whilst General Secretary Mark Dickinson says the value of the Support for Maritime Training scheme (SMarT) has slumped in recent years, meaning that it now covers barely 20% of the costs of training, compared with more than 40% just a few years ago. This puts UK seafarers at a serious disadvantage in comparison with those in other EU member states, he argues.

The Union’s warning comes after Shipping Minister John Hayes revealed that SMarT funding in 2013-14 totalled only £3,139 more than the figure for 2008-9 and was almost £3 million less than the amount given out in 2010-11. Mark Dickinson commented:

“The government’s own statistics show that we are on course for UK officer numbers to fall by around 5,000 within the next decade. For a major maritime nation, such a loss of essential skills could be catastrophic and poses disturbing questions for maritime safety, the economy and the UK’s long-term survival as a global maritime centre.

“The minister’s statement shows that SMarT not keeping pace with inflation, and is also failing to cover the increased costs of training and tuition. With other EU member states giving assistance up to the 100% of training costs allowed under the state aid guidelines, the UK is becoming increasingly uncompetitive as a centre for seafarer training.

“It is essential that we see a redoubling of investment in training, shipowners must step up their commitment to the future and the government must act to ensure that Britain remains a significant player in the global maritime labour market. Our seafarers are well respected around the world and the demand for their skills and experience is high, but the need for action to increase the number of new entrants is increasingly urgent. The figures involved are a drop in the ocean in terms of the Department for Transport’s overall budget, but will be paid back many times over.”