The maritime professionals' trade union, Nautilus International, has given a cautious welcome to a commitment from UK Shipping Minister John Hayes to double the number of vessels registered to the UK flag, and has called on him to ensure that this translates into more jobs for UK seafarers.
The pledge from government comes on the first day of London International Shipping Week, a week which will see over 160 industry functions highlighting the role of London and the UK in the global maritime industry. It culminates in a day-long conference on Thursday, discussing Tomorrow's Maritime World.
Earlier this year, Nautilus International called on the government to reassess the process for granting Certificates of Equivalent Competency to non-UK resident seafarers and also to promote the employment of UK seafarers in domestic shipping, as part of a ten-point Charter for Jobs to deliver decent work and training opportunities for British seafarers post Brexit.
The Union, which represents 22,000 seafarers, is now calling on the minister to put measures in place to increase the number of UK seafarers employed on UK ships, as part of his commitment to increasing the number of vessels registered.
Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson commented: "Providing good job opportunities for UK seafarers is as important to our economic resilience as a maritime nation as the number of vessels on our register.
"Now is the perfect time to look at ways to increase the number of UK seafarers working on UK ships, especially in domestic shipping such as those operating between British ports and in the offshore services, and ensure a maritime future which benefits everyone.
"When I met with John Hayes last week I reaffirmed a number of points in our charter and he was very receptive to them. I hope he will bear it in mind as the UK ship register grows."
The Union's Charter for Jobs also calls for the government to end its support for the Red Ensign Group of registers and encourage British shipowners to return to the UK Ship Register. The Union will highlight this 'easy win' to the minister which could significantly increase the number of vessels on the UK register if the current incentives to use the REG rather than the UKSR were removed.
"The support provided by the UK to the REG is akin to Waitrose subsidising Aldi. It's illogical, and the government should prioritise support for the UKSR – for only then will the government realise its target to double the number of ships on the UK register." Mr Dickinson added.
"However, it is also essential that the government does not allow the UK register to become a flag of convenience itself during its pursuit of additional tonnage. The UK must maintain the high standards it is known for and ensure a real connection to the UK in compliance with international law."