UK to Boost Seafarer Training

By MarEx 2014-03-26 17:22:00

A report from the UK House of Commons transport committee has called for the UK government to do more to tackle the threat of significant shortages in the country’s maritime skills base.

The all-party committee’s inquiry into the government’s maritime strategy urges ministers to make an explicit commitment to address a forecast serious shortfall of UK seafarers by 2021.

The MPs welcomed last year’s publication of an inter-departmental strategy for shipping but warned that ‘we are not persuaded the government can give convincing answers’ to questions about the policies needed to meet the skills gap and to effectively enforce new labor and environmental regulations.

The report recommends an independent review of the impact of budget cuts on the Maritime & Coastguard Agency and also calls for an assessment of the way in which the UK’s support for competing ‘Red Ensign Group’ registers affects the UK mainland register.

Launching the report, committee chairwoman Louise Ellman commented: “The government’s new maritime strategy poses the right questions about UK shipping but does not yet provide compelling answers on a range of key points that will have a major impact on this valuable sector of our economy.

“In particular, it is unclear how the government plans to address the looming skills gap whereby the UK will have 5,000 fewer deck and engineering officers than the UK’s maritime sector is predicted to require by 2021.

“Unless action is taken to address this key challenge, valuable maritime businesses may either have to rely on foreign recruits or opt to move overseas,” she warned.

Mark Dickinson, general secretary of Nautilus, the union for maritime professionals at sea and ashore, said: “This is a good report, which has taken onboard many of the issues that we raised in our written and verbal evidence to the committee.

“The MPs have correctly identified the increasingly urgent need to build upon the fine words within the maritime strategy by setting down tangible targets for recruitment and employment, backed up by adequately staffed and resourced regulatory and investigative agencies.

“We will continue our work to make sure that ministers do not duck the committee’s findings and recommendations,” he added. “The report makes it very clear that there is no room for complacency and that policies need to be much more proactive and positive if the UK shipping sector is able to compete successfully in the tough global markets.”