The UK Transport Select Committee has published its findings following an inquiry into the government’s shipping strategy, focusing on the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and UK seafarer jobs.
The committee undertook the review after Government and the shipping industry entered into a ‘strategic partnership’ in 2013.
In welcoming the report, UK Chamber Chief Executive, Guy Platten, said:
“Many shipping companies tell us that, despite the excellent work done recently by its Chief Executive, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency can be disjointed, enforcing regulation inconsistently across the country and, frankly, paying its skilled staff uncompetitive salaries.
“The work that the MCA does is vital – and so the committee is right to say it should be properly resourced. But it must also become more commercially focused, acting not only as a regulator but as a facilitator for shipping business. It should do more to promote and support the UK flag and British maritime business around the world.
“We do not agree with the report’s findings that an independent review of the MCA is necessary. The UK Chamber of Shipping has recently set up a committee, jointly with the MCA, to review existing issues and help promote the UK as a maritime centre. So an independent review would simply spend thousands of pounds of taxpayers money to deliver the ideas we are already developing.
“The UK Chamber is committed to continuing its working relationship with the MCA and in the months ahead we will be putting forward specific proposals as to how the MCA can best serve its customer base.”
Responding to the report’s concerns about the number of UK seafarers, Mr Platten said:
“The industry shares the concerns of the Committee. Whilst there are certain international market forces at work, it is clear that having a strong seafarer skills base is vital to the UK economy.
“The Government has already provided assistance to the recruitment of new seafarers, by increasing the Support for Maritime Training budget by 25% and developing the apprenticeship model.
“But government funding for maritime training needs to become more flexible to cope with demand. In our view, the existing £15m budget needs to have an additional £3m contingency to be released during years of higher demand.
“We know that the UK produces some of the best seafarers in the world. Many of whom eventually return to shore and use their skills in the vibrant services sectors in the City of London, and in port towns across the country.”
The reports key findings included:
• 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 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.
UK Chamber of Shipping, March 27, 2014