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Maritime union urges action to address seafarer jobs crisis

Posted on: 9 November 2015

The maritime professionals’ union Nautilus International has urged the government to take urgent action to address a growing crisis in UK seafarer employment and training.

In the letter to shipping minister Robert Goodwill, the Union warns that maritime policy objectives are being threatened by a wave of job losses – several thousand of them in the offshore support vessel sector.

General secretary Mark Dickinson said the government’s Maritime Growth Study plans to boost British shipping and seafaring – which were published in September – are being jeopardised by such moves as Maersk Line’s decision to re-register its last six UK-flagged containerships and a stream of cutbacks in the North Sea.

So far this year, around 2,500 seafarer jobs have been lost from the offshore support vessel sector – and Nautilus has recorded more than 550 redundancies among its members in the industry.

‘I am struggling to think of a single offshore support vessel company that we deal with which is not in the process of making seafarers redundant, winding back training programmes and/or reducing terms and conditions,’ Mr Dickinson told the minister.

‘With reliable warnings that the number of vessel lay-ups is set to increase further, I do not believe it is an exaggeration to describe the current situation as a crisis,’ he added. ‘Nautilus believes that the situation is so grave now that it demands urgent action from the government.’

Nautilus says the UK should act on the European Task Force on Maritime Employment and Competitiveness (TFMEC) proposal* that member states should consider regulating manning conditions in offshore services. ‘Such a measure would do much to address unfair competition in the offshore sector and to protect the resources that we have,’ Mr Dickinson pointed out.

Nautilus said the minister’s comments tin a speech this week that ‘governments do best when they give the market the freedom to do its job’ is hard to justify set against state aid in the form of the UK tonnage tax and the £15m Support for Maritime Training scheme.

‘The case for state intervention has long been made and accepted in shipping and your sentiments will not be sufficient to reassure our members who are paying for lack of determined government intervention to protect British interests with their jobs and with reduced terms and conditions whilst lower cost seafarers take their jobs,’ Mr Dickinson told the minister.

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