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UK fleet stats show need for action

Posted on: 2 June 2016

New official statistics on the size of the UK-registered shipping fleet underline the need for urgent action by the government, the maritime union Nautilus International has warned.

‘The state of the red ensign fleet is very different from the somewhat rosy picture that the Department for Transport has tried to portray and we are very concerned about the underlying trends for British shipping,’ said general secretary Mark Dickinson.

‘While the government trumpets an 8% increase in UK-registered deadweight tonnage (the first increase in four years), this masks a numerical decline (from 712 to 457) in the number of UK-registered ships between 2009 and 2015,’ he pointed out.

‘UK-registered tonnage has declined by an average of 3% a year over the past five years, compared with world fleet growth of 5% per annum over the same period,’ Mr Dickinson added.

‘Even more serious is an 18% decline in direct UK-owned tonnage over the past year – from 16.5m to 13.5m dwt. The number of UK-owned trading vessels of 500gt and above fell from 508 in 2014 to 466 last year and is down from 604 in 2009.

‘Only 27% of UK-owned tonnage is on the UK register,’ Mr Dickinson said, ‘and we have to ask why so few UK ship owners chose to use the UK Ship Register (the proportion has fallen from more than one-third to barely one-quarter over the past decade) and why it seems more attractive to foreign owners than to British owners.

‘The underlying, and significant, decline in UK direct-owned tonnage is particularly disturbing as this component should be the most critical in the make-up of the British shipping industry and, in principle, should be the component that is most committed to UK employment and training, as well as maintaining the wider UK maritime infrastructure.

‘Taken overall, the statistics should be a cause of concern and should underline the urgency of the government acting on the findings of the Maritime Growth Study and implementing the measures that will enable the UK shipping industry to compete with countries who have far-sighted visions for their maritime sectors, matched by positive support measures,’ Mr Dickinson said.

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