Nautilus stresses that “if the UK is to retain a shipping industry that sustains the country’s global trading requirements and underpins the nation’s continued global lead as a maritime services center, much more needs to be done,” adding that

 Britain needs ships and seafarers – perhaps more now than ever before. We live in a complex global economy and maritime trade is of fundamental importance.

UK Seafarers

In fact, the report highlights that the UK’s maritime interests have continued to suffer deep and 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.

Moreover, Nautilus adds that the number of British seafarers is expected to fall by around a further one-third over the next decade due to the current gap between numbers due to retire and numbers of new entrants, amount to a further 30% decline to be expected within the next decade.

Nautilus underlines whatsoever, that there is no shortage of young people wishing to embark on a maritime career, as applications for cadetships and ratings apprenticeships far outstripping the number of vacancies.

In the post-Brexit environment, “the government must develop proactive policies to maximize the employment of British seafarers in the UK.” Thus, Nautilus proposes that the government can

  • Invest in maritime education and training, aiming to build capacity, future proof seafarer skills, and further to develop state-of-the-art equipment and technology
  • Increase investment in the Support for Maritime Training (SMarT) scheme to cover 100% of the cost of training UK-resident seafarers and further require a commitment from employers to guarantee a period of employment on completion of a cadetship
  • Support the employment of UK-resident seafarers by introducing stricter controls over the issue of work permits, visas and UK Certificates of Equivalent Competency (CECs)
  • promote collective bargaining, the application of the National Minimum Wage to all seafarers serving in UK waters including one-port voyages, and the active enforcement of Maritime Labour Convention requirements onboard all visiting vessels
  • Enhance the employment of British seafarers, especially in coastal shipping; passenger and in domestic and intra-European freight ferry services; the offshore renewables sector; and in offshore oil and gas exploration and decommissioning

British shipping

The UK must ensure that it can compete against flag states with more interventionist policies, as well as against the flag states that seek to grow by offering low-cost, low standard and ‘light touch’ regulatory regimes.

Countries with substantial maritime subsidies could benefit from a systemic review of their subsidies, with support measures linked more clearly to the delivery of identified policy goals, such as employment and training, flag links, national security, and environmental performance.

Nautilus believes there is significant scope for the UK to conduct such a review of its support measures – including Tonnage Tax and Support for Maritime Training. A review could examine the way in which countries outside the EU have gone above and beyond tonnage tax to develop policy programme to attract ships to their registers and grow their skills base.

Nautilus proposes the

  • Enforcement of a 'genuine link' requirement for ships on the UK Ship Register as required under the United Nationals Convention of the Law of the Sea 1986
  • Encouragement of British shipowners who use foreign flags to return to the UKSR and end support for the Red Ensign Group (REG), as these flags present significant unfair competition to the UKSR
  • Examination of the scope for ‘cabotage’ protection of domestic trades in order to increase economic output and create jobs
  • Establishment of a national maritime strategy which responds to the maritime skills crisis and establishment of economic and strategic transport needs of the nation
  • Improvement of the UK Tonnage Tax scheme

Maritime safety

Nautilus then notes that the waters around the UK are some of the busiest and most dangerous in the world, underlining that maritime expertise is essential for many critical safety positions.

It is added that the continuous decline in the size of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) has seriously depleted the Ministry of Defense’s (MoD) ability to rely upon British merchant ships and seafarers for vital operational tasks and delivering humanitarian aid.

Nautilus adds that policies should recognize the vital role of seafarers in safe shipping and reflect the need to protect their wellbeing and advises to

  • Increase staffing and resources for the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA), to ensure it can cope with the demands placed upon it and to maintain high standards of inspection
  • Take proactive efforts to secure better enforcement of international maritime safety regulations and conventions, to include more effective action against shipping companies violating global standards
  • Reverse the cuts in UK Emergency Towing Vessel provision, and reinstate government support for the maritime element of the Confidential Hazardous Incident Reporting Programme (CHIRP)
  • Eradicate fatigue amongst seafarers including the abolition of six-on/six-off work patterns


Lastly, the decline in the number of UK-registered ships and the number of UK seafarers presents serious questions about the future ability of the nation to maintain supply lines and support British military operations.

The government can therefore:

  • Invest in the RFA to provide the fleet size and seafarer numbers needed to support the Royal Navy, and provide humanitarian relief and various maritime security responsibilities worldwide
  • Reverse the cuts in the UK’s strategic ro-ro sealift capacity
  • Support the Britannia Maritime Aid proposals for a specially designed multi-purpose vessel to provide additional support for humanitarian aid and disaster relief operations – with a dual role as a state-of-the art mobile training center

Earlier in October, Nautilus International has welcomed a reduction in risk levels by the UK for vessels transiting the Strait of Hormuz. Namely, on November 7 the Warlike Operations Area Committee (WOAC) agreed to downgrade the Strait of Hormuz from a High-Risk Area.

Namely, Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson welcomed this decision, highlighting that the safety and security of seafarers was of 'utmost importance to the Union.'

To explore more about the Nautilus Manifesto, you can click on the PDF bellow.