02 February 2018

UK Government Supported by Freight and Passenger Shipping Lines in New Training Initiative  

Funding Doubled to Bring More Young People into the Maritime Industry

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Shipping News Feature UK – The government announcement today (February 2) that a £15 million funding package will ensure more than 400 extra cadets will be trained in maritime roles every year, effectively doubles the money available to support young people under the Support for Maritime Training (SMarT) scheme. The intake of cadets can now actually rise to 1,200 from the current level of 750 whilst several passenger, container freight and bulk cargo shipping lines, including Maersk, Carnival UK, BP, Shell and Stena Line have also pledged to create an extra 450 training positions on board their ships.

These positions aim to give SMarT cadets the experience at sea that will help them gain internationally recognised qualifications, setting them in good stead for future careers both within and outside the sector, and announcing the extra funding Maritime Minister Nusrat Ghani, said:

“We are building the maritime workforce of tomorrow and I want to encourage more young people to consider an exciting and rewarding career at sea. By doubling the funding for cadet training, we will help make sure that our engineers and captains of the future can access the right opportunities to reach their full potential. It will also strengthen the UK maritime sector’s position as a world leader and ensure people have the skills they need to help the industry flourish after we leave the EU.”

The training places are open to anyone across the UK who has an interest in becoming a navigation officer, engineer or an electro-technical officer. Places will be available at training colleges including Southampton Solent University's Warsash School of Maritime Science and Engineering, City of Glasgow College, Lairside Maritime Centre in Liverpool and the South Shields Marine School.

The minister said the intention was to ensure that the UK remains the first port of call for shipping companies seeking highly skilled officers. The funding will increase annually over seven years to fulfil demand for seafarer training and was welcomed by UK Chamber of Shipping Chief Executive Guy Platten, who said:

“Nothing will prove that the UK is open for business quite like seeing more British seafarers arrive in the world’s ports. We already recruit people from all backgrounds and all corners of the country, and with this new investment we will be able to create thousands of new opportunities in the years ahead.

“The taxpayer sees a £5 return on every £1 it invests in seafarer training, so this funding will see the economy and the workforce, as well as the industry better off. Seafarers are highly skilled and well paid, and have the opportunity to build a successful long-term career. We know this funding will help us to unlock the talents of more young people, and it goes to show what can be achieved when Government and industry work together.”

The government say it recognises the importance of the maritime sector, as it should as the islands of Britain rely on sea freight to supply 95% of imports, including 40% of its food and at least a quarter of the country’s energy, and the SMarT Plus package encourages companies sponsoring officer trainees to provide them with a minimum period of employment once they have completed their training – which will enable them to secure the required sea time to progress towards their higher-level Certificate of Competency (CoC). The news received a somewhat mixed reception from maritime unions with Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson, commenting:

“This is very welcome news and represents a huge victory for the Union’s Charter for Jobs campaign. To have secured this in the current economic and political climate is a significant achievement and we are delighted that the government has listened to the strength of the case that we have put forward. We have worked closely with the ship owners to develop the SMarT Plus package in a way that will give the government commitments on training and employment targets whilst also addressing some of the obstacles which have so far held us back from delivering on those aims. We now look to the owners to deliver on those commitments.

”The money is literally small change down the back of the DfT’s sofa - with £15m being barely the cost of building a mile of motorway - but it will make a massive difference to the supply and demand of British seafarers and could mark a watershed for UK maritime employment and training.”

As usual the reception from the RMT union was a little more cautious and National Secretary Steve Todd said:

"Doubling public funding for seafarer training will always be welcomed by the maritime trade unions. RMT will be seeking further details from the Government on how this will affect the very small amount that is dedicated to training Ratings, through the SMarT 3 and SMarT 5 routes.

"The apprenticeship route seems to be the Government’s preferred option for training new UK Ratings in order to avoid an economically damaging maritime skills deficit. RMT remains concerned that the apprenticeship route is not delivering the training schemes required to replace the current generation of UK Ratings, over half of whom will retire by 2023.

"The Government’s Maritime Growth Study review only mentions Ratings once. We need a significant increase in UK Ratings in training and employment, or we will lose control of our capacity to operate a diverse range of shipping, just as we leave the European Union and negotiate a slew of new trade deals."

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