UK Seafarers Unprotected from Unfair Competition, Report Shows

A new report from maritime specialists at Cardiff University into UK seafarers has found ineffective enforcement of the National Minimum Wage and a failure to protect UK seafarers and vessels working the coastline from unfair overseas competition, UK’s transport trade union RMT said.

The report is being launched alongside a Maritime Manifesto by maritime union RMT in the House of Commons today.

In order to reverse declining employment and training rates for UK seafarers, the Maritime Futures report makes a number of recommendations, including a different approach to minimum wage enforcement and reserving jobs on specified routes for UK seafarers on UK registered ships.

The report also acknowledges the progress made under the current Government in linking training for ratings to the concessions available to international shipping companies from the Tonnage Tax and the development of ratings apprenticeships.

To build on that progress, the report recommends a mandatory link between Tonnage Tax and ratings training and support for travel and accommodation costs from shore based training for UK ratings.

UK seafarer numbers which have fallen over 70% in 30 years and the number of ratings has fallen nearly 30% since 2011 to around 8,500.

“ We should no longer tolerate shipping companies flying in low cost seafarers from around the world to work on ships from UK ports for rates of pay as low as £2.25 per hour. The maritime industry needs reform in favour of UK based seafarers, the maritime skills base and the UK register,” Mick Cash, RMT General Secretary, said.

“Our seafarers are aging and the next generation of seafarers, ratings and officers is not being trained. This report provides Government and the industry with the tools to provide some balance and stability to seafarer recruitment, something which has been missing from the industry for decades but is absolutely essential to our national economic health,” RMT National Secretary, Steve Todd, added.

On the other hand, based on new figures just released by the UK Department for Transport, the number of UK seafarers has increased for the first time since 2010.

The annual Seafarer Statistics show:

  •  the total number of UK seafarers active at sea in 2014 was estimated to be 22,910
  • the total number of UK officers increased by around 1000 compared to 2013. This was the first annual increase in the total number of UK seafarers, since 2010.
  • nearly 2000 officer cadets were in training, the second highest level for over a decade

The figures also show that nearly 2000 officer cadets were in training, the second highest level since the Government’s ‘Support for Maritime Training’ scheme was introduced in 1998.

“There is a global shortage of seafarers, and with the volume of trade moved by sea expected to double in the next twenty years, the demand for skilled seafarers will only increase,” UK Chamber CEO, Guy Platten, said.

But Mr Platten added more needed to be done by government to support new seafaring jobs.

“We are the second most expensive country in the world for companies to train seafarers, and given seafarers go on to work in a range of shore-based maritime careers after they return from sea, it is unfair for shipping companies to shoulder the vast majority of the training costs.  This is why Government support is so crucial.”