UK’s National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) has launched a campaign to fight the decline in the number of seafarers in the country.
The campaign, SOS 2020, is said to be a “clarion call” for the country’s government and industry to respond to the maritime skills crisis with coordinated actions that will increase the number of UK seafarers in training and employment.
In the early 1980s, there were around 30,000 Ratings, specialist maritime staff with a variety of responsibilities, working at sea in the UK merchant navy. By June 2015, there were 8,830 Ratings out of a total UK seafarer workforce of 23,380, according to RMT.
Since 2011, the number of UK Ratings has fallen by 25% and the total number of UK seafarers decreased by over 13%. Additionally, this decline is accentuated by the age profile of UK seafarers working today as half of UK Ratings aged over 40 years.
According to RMT, 2020 will see the retirement of thousands of UK Seafarers, “exposing this country to the negative economic, social and security effects of a major maritime skills deficit, unless training and employment rates pick up and rise significantly over the next four years.”
The campaign aims to provide equal rights in employment, equality and immigration law for UK seafarers, domestic ‘cabotage’ (transport between UK ports) protections for UK crew and flag, statutory annual target for training new UK Ratings, safe ships in safe seas – higher safety standards in UK shipping and protecting the Royal Fleet Auxiliary from privatization.