Currently, beneficiaries of the Tonnage Tax scheme must train one new officer cadet for every 15 officers in their employ, but the proposal would expand this obligation to ratings. Speaking to Seatrade Global, Macleod highlighted the benefits for the UK, indicating that the move would address the disparity between demand for young seafarers and high youth unemployment. “If we look at the ferry, offshore and oil and gas sectors, age profile is in the upper 40s and 50s,” he said. “These people will be looking to retire.
“The Chamber has seen this demographic gap for some time. The government have been very supportive of officer training, but ratings haven’t been taken up in the same way.”
It is not the first time the proposals have been considered; previous discussions between industry representatives, the UK Government and trade unions yielded suggestions from the Chamber, Nautilus UK and National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) for companies to take on three trainee ratings per 15 officers. However, these suggestions have stalled. “It just faded,” said UK Chamber director general Mark Brownrigg. “The tonnage tax was focussed on officers; it seemed sensible to put in an option for the training of ratings alongside. It wasn’t rejected, it was just inertia.”
Asked if it was possible that ratings from the UK could be competitive versus labour from developing countries, Macleod and Brownrigg remarked that this was unlikely. “It will tend to be in shortsea and offshore sectors where regularity is important, rather than in deepsea trades,” remarked Brownrigg, adding that a worldwide resurgence in British maritime involvement was “much less likely.”
“British crew are well-trained and highly skilled,” concluded Macleod. “If you look at the growth of the UK offshore sector – not just oil and gas, but, increasingly, renewables, we have to fill that gap. We have to train their replacements, or in 10 or 20 years we’re going to have a very aged pool to choose from.”