Congress voted today to support UK shipping and seafarer employment with the passing of motion 12, which was put forward by Nautilus International and supported by PCS and GMB.
Speaking to Congress, Ronnie Cunningham from Nautilus International, said that he did not feel the industry was being supported by central government.
“Ministers keep saying that we need to use trade to grow the economy, well shipping is still an essential industry and we need to start treating it like that,” he said.
The motion notes that is now two years since the government published the Maritime Growth Study, yet there is a real absence of tangible new measures to support British shipping and seafarer employment since the policy paper was delivered.
Cunningham told delegates that British seafarer numbers are continuing to decline and on current trends their numbers will diminish by a further 30% over the next decade.
Seconding the motion, William Jones, RMT, said that in the 47 years he has been a seafarer he’d “seen nothing like it”.
“There's no skills and no future in the UK merchant fleet,” he said. “And it’s getting worse. Day by day, week by week, month by month.”
“We don’t like the word SOS because it means someone could die. But SOS - Save our seafarers. We need to do this and we need to do this now,” he concluded.
PCS backs motion
PCS delegate David Semple supported the motion and pointed out that disasters like the Herald of Free Enterprise ferry disaster 30 years ago “were the kind of disasters we can expect if we don’t have the support of the government to address the decline in the number of seafarers,” he said.
He drew Congress’ attention to the severe staffing issues in the Maritime and Coastguard Agency
“The MCA. in many respects is in the same dire straits as seafaring. It is our fourth emergency service and it’s under direct threat - the search and rescue operations are if we don’t have the staff there that we need,” he added.
The motion also noted that the number of UK-owned and registered ships has fallen from 712 in 2009 to 452 last year, and that there continues to be extensive evidence of substandard, often flag of convenience, shipping operations in UK waters posing unfair and often illegal competition to quality operators.
The passing of the motion means that Congress will now call on the government to: act urgently to implement the cross-industry proposals for improvements to the Support for Maritime Training scheme and properly enforce national minimum wage and work permit requirements for all seafarers working on UK domestic shipping services and in offshore services.
It will also seek to introduce cabotage legislation to protect UK jobs in coastal shipping and offshore services from unfair competition from ships with substandard safety and working arrangements.
Finally, Congress will also lobby the government to ensure that the Maritime and Coastguard Agency is properly staffed and properly resourced to enforce critical national and international standards for safety and working conditions on all ships operating in and around the UK.