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Wednesday, 13 September 2017
Shipping industry urges Government to double funding to £30m for recruitment drive
The shipping industry is calling on the Government to double the funding it puts towards helping train seafarers to £30m in a bid to protect UK maritime jobs as the country gets closer to Brexit.
The UK Chamber of Shipping said it had proposed an extension to the Government’s existing Support for Maritime Training scheme, known as SMarT, whereby its members would agree to employ the newly-qualified officers they trained for a sufficient period to enable them to attain higher qualifications.
Guy Platten, chief executive of the trade body, warned the UK maritime industry was facing competition from other shipping hubs including Hong Kong and Singapore, where the cost of training staff was lower than the UK, which at £65,000 is the second most expensive place to train a seafarer even with the Government’s £22,000 subsidy.
Furthermore, people trained abroad are able to then take jobs on UK-registered ships and there is also the pressing issue of the rising age of the UK’s sea-going work force.
The Chamber said if the Government’s provision was increased, the industry “is confident that companies would train officers in even greater numbers, enabling the UK to claim a greater share of the global market for highly-qualified seafarers”.
“If the UK does not respond with positive measures to ensure that employment prospects for its seafarers remain strong, it will lose its pool of talent and expertise that its shore-based infrastructure of maritime colleges, surveyors, naval architects, marine insurers and maritime lawyers requires in order to advance the UK’s pre-eminence as a maritime nation,” Mr Platten said.
He claimed while his members had invested in facilities for training - including a £162m campus on the River Clyde opened by City of Glasgow College - more needed to be done to boost the number of people entering the shipping industry.
Mr Platten said the extra funding would easily raise the number of trainees across the industry from 800 annually now to 1,200 and had the ability to increase it to 1,600 per annum.
While the Government’s current funding has been credited with helping trainee numbers rise from 490 a year in 1998/99, Mr Platten said there was scope for more to be recruited.
“The principal impediment to this is the cost of providing training,” he added.
The trade body also claimed data showed for every pound spent by the Government on SMarT, the UK economy benefited by £4.80. This was partly because of the career progression available in shipping and the fact onshore jobs which many seafarers end up in have a £20,000 premium on the average UK salary.
Shipping minister John Hayes has echoed the industry’s call, saying the UK must increase the number of qualified officers joining the industry by at least 1,500 each year if it is to close the gap between supply and demand from the sector.