Written evidence submitted by Nautilus International (MAR0015)
Please find below Nautilus International’s evidence to the Committee on Maritime 2050.
Nautilus International is an independent, influential, global trade union and professional organisation that works with members, the maritime community, national governments and international agencies to create change and promote the sector, improving the lives of maritime professionals. We represent 20,000 maritime professionals including ship masters (captains), officers, officer trainees (cadets) and shipping industry personnel, such as ship pilots, inland navigation workers, vessel traffic services operators, harbourmasters, seafarers in the oil and gas industry, and shore-based staff.
Nautilus International is supportive of the aims of the Maritime 2050 plan to support and grow the maritime sector, we wholeheartedly share the belief that maritime has an integral role to play in the future of the UK and that we can be world leaders in technological and environmental innovation. We particularly support the core value of a real partnership between government and industry to put this plan into practice. In order to achieve these aims, we need to invest in people.
We therefore support the broader submission made by Maritime UK, the umbrella body for the UK Maritime Sector, but in the context of P&O Ferries decision to terminate 786 seafarers without any consultation or notification, we feel we must add additional evidence to the Committee.
‘People’ is a core theme of the Maritime 2050 plan with the aim of ‘inspiring young people to pursue maritime careers’. We are deeply concerned that the decision by P&O Ferries has damaged this theme with the message that British seafarers are expendable. The former Maritime Minister, Ms Nusrat Ghani MP, also shared her fears, when she said: “We have an ambitious plan which is now in serious peril, as this decision by P&O Ferries has the devastating potential to turn our talented young people off a career at sea.”
Nautilus and the RMT, alongside industry representatives, have developed a joint ‘Fair Ferries Strategy’ that seeks to address the significant gaps in UK law that P&O Ferries exposed. As part of this plan, we have called for government to increase SMarT funding towards the 100% support provided by our competitors. In order to mitigate the impact of the actions of P&O Ferries on the attractiveness of a career at sea, we must increase the investment in our current apprentices and officer trainees/cadets.
The Maritime 2050 plan lays clear the need for continuous education and training. Nautilus wholeheartedly agrees with this aim. As the maritime industry progresses towards decarbonisation as laid out in the clean maritime plan, the need for continuous professional development, education and training will only increase. As technological advances are made and new fuels and engine types developed, it is imperative that our maritime professionals are given every opportunity to re-skill and up-skill so as not to be disadvantaged by these changes. Maritime professionals should not bear the costs of these re-training requirements, it should be funded by government and industry.
Nautilus therefore strongly supports the extension of the ‘Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition’ to support UK innovation. Nautilus believes this funding offers government and industry the perfect opportunity to ensure re-training of our maritime professionals is central in the plan to decarbonise. It is our view that businesses must show their commitment to training as a prerequisite for receiving funding from the CMDC. To support jobs, government must ensure businesses and innovators are incentivised to re-train British seafarers. We cannot innovate and be a world leader in technological innovation without the people to operate modern technologies.
A key tenet to the Maritime 2050 ‘People’ theme is the need to create a diverse maritime workforce, in particular to attract more women into the industry. Freeports are one of the government’s flagship policies in post-Brexit Britain. Freeports allow for lower tax regimes to exist within defined port locations. Nautilus believes that the companies benefitting from freeports must also take responsibility for diversifying their workforce and reinvest savings made through these freeport regimes into programmes such as childcare facilities to encourage more women, whom tend to be primary care givers, into maritime careers and to keep women and young families in the maritime sector.
As part of Maritime 2050, government has recently announced the National Shipbuilding Strategy. Nautilus supports this strategy and we believe there is an opportunity to use this strategy to level up coastal communities and create new career opportunities for people living in these areas to access training and careers. The government has committed to levelling up the country, Maritime 2050 must therefore reflect this endeavour. Nautilus believes the government should invest through mechanisms that restore the industrial and commercial heritage of many coastal communities, whilst developing these communities into hubs of industry and productivity for the future. Deprivation of coastal communities can be reversed through Maritime 2050 and when coupled with the government’s stated aim of levelling up, the mechanisms exist for enabling a sustainable coastal community renaissance.
Maritime 2050 commits to a national framework for autonomous vessels. Nautilus supports human centred automation. In 2021 Nautilus carried out a survey of ‘social conditions’ in shipping which showed the vast majority of our members feel positively about automation. However, Nautilus members also expressed widespread rejection of autonomous vessels. They do so because technological change should not replace highly skilled maritime professionals capable of adapting to the unpredictability of the maritime environment. The push towards more automation must be carefully considered and must be done in partnership with workers to sustain jobs and enhance productivity as opposed to more short-term gains of motives purely driven by commercial needs alone.
Over half of respondents to the Nautilus survey said connectivity for personal use was a key priority for them. Nautilus therefore welcomes the Maritime 2050 commitment to increasing connectivity at sea, but since this plan was developed, connectivity at sea has shown few signs of improvement. Increasing connectivity is in the interests of everyone involved in maritime. It allows for seafarers to stay in contact with home, increasing morale on board. It also allows companies to increase efficiency through real time tracking and better data. Government must bring forward a clear plan as to how increased connectivity at sea will cease to be an aim but a practical reality.
Maritime 2050 does not address the issue of flags of convenience and the corrosive impact on governance and regulation of shipping and thus the unfair competition they represent. Flags of convenience account for over 50% of the world fleet with the top three registers accounting for over 40% alone. These flags are unable to exercise effective control over the ships on their register and exacerbate the race to the bottom. Nautilus believes tackling flags of convenience must be considered in any maritime strategy as they undermine the government’s efforts to grow the UK Ship Register. Nautilus has therefore repeatedly called on government to instigate a global review of ship registrations practices to ensure a genuine link exists between shipowners and the flags of the vessels they fly as laid out in UNCLOS Articles 91 and 94.
Finally, Maritime 2050 does not address the potential of UK cabotage laws. As the long-term blueprint for the future of the maritime industry, there must be a genuine discussion between government, industry and unions regarding the merits of cabotage. Cabotage has the ability to support the UK National shipbuilding strategy as well as ensure a strategic reserve of maritime skills. A longer-term holistic view must be taken with respect to the broader aims of Maritime 2050. It is crucial to consider how government policy can enhance the nations maritime resilience and guard against geopolitical risks whilst supporting a strong maritime sector cable of delivering the ambitions of Global Britain.
Thank you for taking the time to read this submission. Representatives of Nautilus would be happy to discuss this further with the Committee.