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United Kingdom

Nautilus condemns Port Talbot steelworks closure as 'threat to UK shipbuilding'

12 March 2024

Nautilus has flagged UK maritime and national security concerns over the decision by Tata Steel to close its Welsh steelworks in Port Talbot.

On 18 January, Tata Steel announced the closure of its steelworks in Port Talbot with approximately 3,000 job losses. The devastating announcement will leave the UK as the only G20 economy without any domestic steel production from scratch.

While this decision does not directly impact Nautilus members, the Union is deeply concerned with the potential ramifications of this decision on the UK's national security, particularly the nation's ability to build and repair naval and commercial ships.

A report from the Royal United Services Institute in March 2023 highlighted the lack of domestic access to steel production presents a risk to UK national and economic security: 'Any policy approach seeking to minimise national security risks should begin with the premise that UK national security and economic resilience may be seriously impaired by further major reductions in the UK steel nindustry's product range and market share.'

Community union, which has members facing job losses, called the decision 'unacceptable' and said there is an 'alternative to the destructive path'.

In September 2023, at the annual gathering of British trade unions affiliated to the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Nautilus supported a Community union motion calling for the TUC to campaign for the UK government to retain strong and sustainable domestic steel industry, and implement a strategic plan to support it.

Nautilus added an amendment to the motion, stating: 'Congress also notes that as an island nation, a lack of domestic steel would pose risks to the nation's ability to build and repair naval and commercial ships in the UK and thus to maintain vital supply lines of food and essential goods in the event of
geopolitical instability.'

With some arguing that this instability is already upon us – highlighted by recent attacks on British merchant ships in the Red Sea – the UK's ability to produce steel could be critical if instability spreads and causes major disruption to international supply chains.