Ahead of the UK general election in next month, Nautilus International has launched a manifesto setting out the key commitments needed from the new government, to ensure a strong and prosperous maritime sector in a post-Brexit environment.
'Safeguarding the future of British Maritime' outlines what the government needs to do to boost British seafarer employment, help the industry thrive and increase maritime safety and defence.
The manifesto stresses the importance of shipping to an island nation like the UK, with more than 95% of the nation's trade facilitated by sea.
The UK's maritime interests have continued to suffer dramatic decline, despite the government's attempts to develop a strategic and long-term vision for the sector through the Maritime Growth Study and the Maritime 2050 initiative.
The UK Ship Register (UKSR) has fallen from 1,600 vessels in 1975 to just 429 in 2018. Over the same period, the number of British merchant seafarers has declined by around two-thirds, with that number set to fall by a further one-third over the next decade.
To retain a shipping industry that sustains the UK's global trading requirements and underpins the nation's continued global lead as a maritime services centre, more needs to be done.
With no shortage of young people wishing to embark on a maritime career, the government must do more to promote the sector.
Nautilus International's manifesto calls for significant investment in maritime education and training; stricter controls over the issue of UK Certificates of Equivalent Competency (CECs), work permits and visas; the promotion of collective bargaining and the application of the National Minimum Wage to all seafarers serving in UK waters.
For the UK maritime industry to prosper the government must: enforce the 'genuine link' requirement for ships on the UKSR; encourage British shipowners using foreign flags to return to the UKSR; examine the scope for 'cabotage' protection of domestic trades; establish a national maritime strategy and improve the UK Tonnage Tax scheme.
The waters around the UK are some of the busiest and most dangerous in the world, and maritime expertise is essential for many safety-critical positions.
The government must: increase staffing and resources for the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) and secure better enforcement of international maritime safety regulations and conventions.
The strategic importance of British merchant shipping and seafarers has been repeatedly demonstrated in many conflicts and national emergencies. To maintain this, the government must: invest in the seriously depleted Royal Fleet Auxiliary; reverse cuts in the UK's strategic ro-ro sealift capacity and support the Britannia Maritime Aid proposals for a specially designed multi-purpose humanitarian aid and disaster relief vessel.