Update: Maersk to Reflag UK Vessels, End Training of Cadets amid Brexit Chaos

Danish shipping giant Maersk plans to reflag UK vessels and end training of cadets in advance of Britain leaving the European Union in March, maritime trade union Nautilus said. 

Image Courtesy: Maersk

As informed, the company decided to take its remaining vessels off the UK Ship Register, exit the UK Tonnage Tax and end the training of UK cadets.

This decision “will have a serious impact on seafarers jobs and the stability of the UK industry”, Nautilus has warned.

According to Nautilus, Maersk has a few container vessels under the UK flag with London-based ship owning and management Zodiac Maritime.

Europe’s largest shipping company is said to be following in the footsteps of ferry and logistics company P&O which last week announced it was reflagging all its short sea vessels to Cyprus due to Brexit uncertainty and the desire for its ships to be flagged in an EU member state.

Trade union revealed that Maersk has confirmed it will stop taking in cadets from the UK, following a decrease in demand for junior officers, as it moves to a different manning structure and model.

Although all current cadets will have their training completed to allow them to gain their Certificate of Competence, the news adds to the pressure on the future for UK seafarers, already under threat as the nation moves closer to exit from the EU at the end of March, Nautilus said.

Over a number of years, the UK’s shipping industry has suffered a huge drop in domestic seafarers – from more than 66,000 in 1977 to just 23,000 today. The trade union is warning that the continuing decline in the number of British seafarers and vessels is putting the nation’s economic security at risk and could leave it dependent on other countries for many essential goods and services.

“The news coming out of Maersk is deeply concerning for the future of the UK maritime industry, especially in light of the recent announcement from P&O and rumours that CMA-CGM is also set to leave the UK register,” Mark Dickinson, Nautilus general secretary, commented.

“Brexit has already put UK seafarer certificates at risk and the ongoing uncertainty is forcing the hand of large businesses — it has created a perfect storm, threatening the current and future employment of UK-based workers,” he added.

Nautilus will offer support to the cadets affected by Maersk’s discontinuation of its program, however, the union believes that the government and the industry should also help curb the decline.

In a separate statement, Maersk said: “As part of Maersk Line’s long term crew strategy, we have decided to adjust the sourcing areas for our international cadet intake. This will result in a significant reduction of cadets that we recruit from countries such as South Africa and UK.”

“All current cadets will be given the opportunity to complete their contractual training period to qualify as an officer of the watch, enabling them to meet international employment terms.”

We will continue to fulfill our statutory commitment under UK Tonnage Tax (UKTT). Maersk Line has not had any owned container vessels flying the UK Flag since December 2015 and Maersk Supply Services does not have any offshore supply vessels currently registered under the UK flag,” the company added.


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The article has been amended since initial publishing with statements from Maersk and Nautilus.