The maritime professionals’ union Nautilus International has welcomed the Budget announcement of plans to assist the North Sea oil and gas industry – but is calling on the government to ensure the pledged support is far-reaching and helps British shipping and seafarers in equal measure.
Mark Dickinson, General Secretary of Nautilus,said: “The downturn in the offshore energy sector has hit British seafarers really hard, with hundreds of job losses and many more being forced to accept radical cuts in their pay and conditions.
“It is encouraging to see support for the offshore oil and gas industry in the Budget, however we must ensure the government is comprehensive in its approach.
“Nautilus and our members are calling on the plans to be bolstered with no-cost measures to ensure the assistance actually benefits British seafarers and British offshore support vessel operators, rather than helping to prop up foreign-crewed and foreign-flagged operations.
“We’re calling on the Chancellor to ensure that whilst the panel he is opening looks at making the industry commercially viable through to its decommissioning; they should also ensure the working conditions of those offshore are not ignored.”
The UK’s shipping industry, which provides the country with 95% of its imports and exports, has suffered a huge drop in UK seafarers – from more than 66,000 in 1977 to just 23,060 today.
Nautilus has warned that the continuing decline in the number of British seafarers and UK-flagged vessels is putting the nation’s economic security at risk and could leave it dependent on other countries for many essential goods and services.
It is campaigning with a recent 10 point charter to encourage maritime organisations and the UK government to work together in delivering decent work for British seafarers, in the interests of the nation’s strategic and economic needs.
The Union has also worked with the shipowners’ organisation to present the government with ‘SMarT-Plus’ proposals for improvements to the UK’s Support for Maritime Training scheme.
Dickinson concluded: “It is a shame that this did not feature in the Budget proposals for education and training. The cost of this would be a drop in the ocean, but would be repaid many times over.”