Ministers must take steps to address a significant shortfall in UK trained seafarers predicted to emerge by 2021, warns the Transport Committee.
Launching the report Louise Ellman MP, chair of the Transport Committee, said today,
“UK is a globally competitive location for shipping. The maritime sector earns £8.8 – £11.8 billion for the economy and supports 214,000 jobs.
“The Government’s new maritime strategy poses the right questions about UK shipping but does not yet provide compelling answers on a range of key points that will have a major impact on this valuable sector of our economy.
“In particular, it is unclear how the Government plans to address the looming skills gap whereby the UK will have 5,000 fewer deck and engineering officers than the UK’s maritime sector is predicted to require by 2021.
“Unless action is taken to address this key challenge, valuable maritime businesses may either have to rely on foreign recruits or opt to move overseas.
“The Government must also set out its policies for growing the size of the UK-flagged fleet, after a period of stagnation*. A larger UK fleet supports the wider maritime services sector and generates jobs for the UK.
“Ministers must review the amount of funding allocated to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) to ensure it can deliver its expanding international regulatory responsibilities for enforcing standards that save lives and prevent pollution.
“Without more resources for the MCA it is hard to see how the UK can continue to lead the delivery of high-quality shipping standards or grow as a global shipping base and a centre for maritime services available to vessels of all nationalities.”
In its report the Transport Committee calls on the Government
- To make an explicit commitment to address fully a significant looming shortfall in UK trained seafarers predicted to emerge by 2021, partly through the Tonnage Tax, SMaRT funding and apprenticeships.
- To commission an independent review of the MCA to evaluate how far a ongoing budget cuts may weaken the UK’s ability to enforce compliance with international shipping regulations, undermine its status as a high-quality flag nation and shrink its influence within the International Maritime Organisation.
- To review the support the UK provides through its oversight of the Red Ensign Group to a number of competing registries of crown dependencies and UK overseas territories, and to raise the standards of the vessels which fly under the this flag.
- To implement stronger seamanship qualifications by 2016 for the crew of all transfer vessels taking staff to and from offshore wind farm installations (and to call for voluntary compliance with these higher standards before that deadline).
- Support London International Shipping Week 2015 but showcase shipping around the country.
MPs also call on the chief inspector at the Marine Accident Investigation Branch to inform parliament if budgetary constraints prevent him from adequately discharging his duties.
* The UK-flagged shipping fleet grew significantly from 1999 until the start of the recent recession in 2008.