Nautilus Questions Govt Commitment to Maritime Sector
Spending on sector does not relect its earnings...
Nautilus has expressed concern about the government’s decision to review the future of its Support for Maritime Training (SMarT) scheme.
Shipping minister Mike Penning announced that work will be carried out over the coming year to ‘consider the continuing requirement for government support for training and skills development in this sector’.
He says the government has ring-fenced £12m of SMarT funding for the next financial year, to help contribute to the training of up to 1,000 new cadets and ratings, and for ratings studying for officer qualifications. However, ministers have decided to abolish the Crew Relief Coasts Scheme, which assists owners with travel expenses for officers and ratings joining and leaving their ships abroad.
Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson says he is pleased the minister has maintained SMarT over the following year, but is disturbed that its future could be in doubt.
‘It’s only a few days since BIMCO and the ISF published new research showing the critical need to maintain recruitment and training to avert a major national and international seafaring skills crisis, and it is essential for the UK’s future as a maritime nation that we continue to safeguard our supply of officers and ratings.
‘We are very concerned that this latest announcement forms part of a bigger picture, in which the entire network of maritime-related expenditure – including vital safety services such as emergency towing vessels and offshore fire-fighting - is apparently under attack.
‘The way in which the framework of support for the shipping infrastructure is being chipped away at raises major questions about the government’s commitment to the maritime sector,’ he adds. ‘Spending on shipping adds up to a tiny fraction of the overall DfT budget, yet the industry has been one of the country’s biggest earners.
‘Shipowners repeatedly say that the thing they need is fiscal stability, but these cutbacks are also helping to destabilise the financial regime that they work within and do nothing to help the competitiveness of the UK flag,’ Mr Dickinson warns.
‘It is also essential that the shipowners respond positively to the minister’s call for them to pick up the costs of additional training beyond the first element of SMarT.’
Mr Dickinson says the government must now work with the industry to develop an agreed maritime policy with clearly defined objectives for the future of the UK fleet and the national seafarer skills base. ‘It is time to revisit the goals that were set in the Charting a New Course policy package at the start of this decade and to provide the industry with reassurance that the government is committed to the future of its maritime sector,’ he adds.