Nautilus International calls for investment in seafarer training to protect the UK’s status as a maritime leader

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For the price of one mile of motorway, the Government could create thousands of much-needed jobs in the maritime sector to protect the UK’s reputation as a global shipping centre, according to the maritime professionals’ union, Nautilus International.

The trade union, which represents 22,000 maritime professionals at sea and ashore, has carried out analysis along with ship owners and the Merchant Navy and found that for just £15m a year, the UK could bridge the skills gap currently impacting the maritime sector.

Last month, Nautilus International warned the House of Commons defence committee that Britain was in danger of ‘sea strangulation’ as a result of the dramatic decline of its Merchant and Royal Navies and is becoming increasingly dependent on foreign shipping.

Now, Nautilus International together with the UK Chamber of Shipping and the Merchant Navy Training Board is calling for a doubling of funding for the Support for maritime training (SMarT) scheme from £15m to £30m per year. Their joint paper concluded that this investment ‘would deliver more cadets and thus more UK seafarers, enhancing the UK’s seafaring base and – over the long term – its status as the global centre for maritime business services.’

Nautilus General Secretary, Mark Dickinson, commented: “The support we are seeking is a drop in the ocean – it would amount to less than the cost of building a mile of motorway – yet our analysis shows that it would be repaid many times over with the creation of thousands of quality jobs, at sea and ashore in the wider maritime cluster.

“The industry is united in its call for Government action, and we urge the Government to seize this opportunity. We desperately need a new generation of British seafarers and we believe SMarT Plus would ensure we recruit the numbers needed to keep the UK as one of the world’s major maritime centres.”

The original SMarT scheme was introduced almost 20 years ago and has delivered a marked increase in the number of trained seafarers. However, the annual intake remains around 350 short of the long-standing target of 1,200 to meet long-term demand for skilled and experienced seafarers in seagoing and shore-based posts.

The SMarT Plus proposals would restore the value of the assistance so that it covers at least 50% of the costs of training and would introduce incentives for companies to employ cadets as junior officers once they qualify.

Chamber of Shipping CEO Guy Platten added: “We are seeking a very small increase in government’s cash contribution to seafarer training. In return, we are promising huge economic benefits and job creation over the long term. There are young people who want to go to sea, and there are companies who want to employ them. This is a no-brainer.  With better support from government we can create thousands of jobs in the next few years.”