The UK-based shipping union RMT today slammed what it describes as “blatantly alarmist” noises coming out of the shipping industry which “threaten to destabilise the already damaged sector and which pose a renewed threat to seafarers jobs and training.”
According to RMT, the Amec report commissioned by the Chamber of Shipping into the costs of new sulphur regulations is out of date.
The union said that the report was published in March 2013 and priced conversion for companies at £300m (circa USD 469.7 m).
“In the last 6 months oil prices have collapsed dramatically, one significant factor that escaped yesterday’s three-minute warning from the industry body,” RMT added.
Amec said that the upcoming sulphur regulations will be forcing more freight traffic to Europe on to the roads and through the Channel Tunnel, resulting in more pollution, with ferry companies forced to cut routes and jobs.
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: “Threats of job and route cuts and fare hikes in the shipping industry make no economic sense when global seatrade is set to double over the next twenty years. The country cannot afford for UK seafarers and the maritime skills base to be shut out of the opportunities this presents and the Government needs to re-start the stalled Shipping Strategy to find effective ways of protecting and increasing UK seafarer numbers, rather than shipping companies’ profits.”
“The number of UK ratings has fallen by 3,290 since 2011 alone and the shipping industry’s approach to the sulphur regulations must be seen by Government for what it is: a cynical attempt to wrest more subsidy from the taxpayer to meet conversion costs bound up with the austerity agenda of today’s autumn statement,” he added.
RMT National Secretary for Shipping Steve Todd said: “Seafarers, passengers and the national economy must not be forced to pay for the shipping industry’s failure to prepare for regulations introduced 6 years ago. Some operators have taken preparatory steps and we recognise that but RMT cannot stand by and allow the shipping industry a free run at our members’ jobs on ferries and at ports in the North Sea and Channel. Leaving these alarmist statements to the eleventh hour is a crude ploy that causes unnecessary instability in the industry.”
“In addition to the £725m tonnage tax break the shipping industry has enjoyed since 2008-09, the EU gave ferry companies in the UK nearly €30m [£23.7m] in July specifically to help with costs converting vessels to low sulphur fuel,” Todd went on to say.