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Education and training

Worrying drop in UK cadets revealed by latest DfT data

1 March 2024

The number of UK officer cadets in training has slumped with new entrants 23% lower in 2023 than before the Covid-19 pandemic.

The latest data realised by the Department for Transport (DfT) reveal that there were 1,450 cadets in training in 2023, 8% below the previous financial year.

The number of new entrants in 2023 was 580 – 2% lower than in 2022, and 23% below the pre-pandemic financial year ending 2020. This continues a long-term downward trend from a high of 1,990 cadets in 2013.

‘We can only hope that the recent increase in SMarT funding to 50% of the training costs for cadets will do something to reverse this, and Nautilus will continue to campaign for 100% coverage,’ Nautilus head of Professional and Technical David Appleton said.

‘However, the quality of the cadet training experience is really the key here. The majority of UK cadets sign up because people they know are already working at sea – but poor experiences during sea time are likely to stop people from recommending the career to others.

‘It is therefore essential that the UK government provide the promised funding and complete the remaining recommendations of the Maritime Skills Commission’s 2021 Seafarer Cadet Review Report, modernising training and preventing abuses.’

Nautilus also flagged a growing trend towards the employment of non-resident seafarers, with data showing only 11% of employees in the British shipping industry are UK residents.

In 2023 the MCA issued 41,930 valid certificates to work on UK -flagged vessels – of which 14,960 (36%) were issued to UK nationals.

The RMT union has also spoken out on the issue, noting that only 8% of ratings are UK residents.
Some 24,100 UK nationals were active at sea in 2023, 2% below the pre-pandemic figure.

The statistics provide estimates of seafarer demographics using data as of 30 June 2023 from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the UK Chamber of Shipping (CoS).

Data collection methods were changed in 2023, which makes drawing definite conclusions difficult. Nautilus has approached the MCA to ask for clarification.