My Ref: MRP 23/1                                                                            


11th January 2023


Circular Num: NP/003/23


To: The Secretary All Shipping Branches & Regional Councils

Dear Colleagues,


It has recently come to the attention of the RMT that the Ensign Retirement Plan (ERP) will be taken over by Smart Pensions in the early part of 2023. The ERP is a Defined Contribution (DC) occupational pension scheme arrangement which is offered to employees working at shipping companies such as Stena Line, Northlink Ferries, PNTL and Foreland Shipping.

We are advised that over the past year the Ensign Trustees have been reviewing ERP in respect to costs and more importantly members are receiving value for money.  The latter point is very important when it comes to DC arrangement as members potential retirement benefits are based on the amount of contributions going into their individual pension pot, the level of investment returns they receive over the lifetime of their membership of the ERP and level of charges deducted from their pot every year to administer the plan i.e. Annual Management Charges. 

Following the review and carrying out detailed due diligence, the Trustees have decided that it would be in the best interests of members current and future retirement benefits that the ERP is wound up and that members benefits are transferred to Smart Pension. The Smart Pension Scheme is a Master Trust arrangement which offers comparable benefits as those offered to members currently contributing to the ERP.

While ultimately such mergers/takeovers are common practice, if the appropriate regulatory procedure has been followed, the RMT have been in contact with the Trustee to seek further clarity on the takeover. Below are several questions we have asked the Trustee in relation to the takeover which includes their answers:

Q.        When will the takeover happen? 

A.       It is expected that the takeover by Smart Pension will be completed in early 2023.

Q.        Will members have to give their consent to allow their built-up Ensign funds to be transferred to Smart Pensions?

A.       Member consent is not required although members have the choice to transfer to another pension arrangement if they so wish.

Q.        If current participating ERP employers decide to move to Smart Pensions will they be expected to provide the same level of contributions as those currently paid under the ERP? 

A.       Yes, the same level of contributions is expected to continue.

Q.        Will the default and self-select investment funds be the same as those which are currently available to members in the ERP? 

A.       No but the Smart investment funds will be similar.

Note: The Smart Pension default investment strategy is designed to maximise returns whilst also being environmentally and socially friendly. 

Q.        Will the Annual Management Charges (AMCs) for the default and self-select investment funds be the same as those currently offered by ERP?

A.       The default funds under Smart Pensions will have a lower AMC. Self-select funds will also be generally lower

Note: It is expected that for the Smart Pension default fund the AMC will be 0.25%pa compared to the ERP AMC of 0.31%. We are also advised that there will be no charges placed on members as a result of them transferring to Smart Pension. Currently 93% of ERP members are in the default fund.

Q.        Will employers offer the same level of Life cover under Smart Pensions? 

A.       ERP does not include life cover. Life cover is a totally separate benefit paid through an insurance policy paid for by employers. However, the Trustees see no reason for any existing life cover arrangements to be changed.

Q. Will Smart be offering some sort of digital platform for members to view their retirement savings and make changes to their account via their laptop or mobile phone? 

A. Yes, Smart is a fintech company and technology for members, and employers, can expect the digital platform to be of a high standard.


We have been informed that Smart Pensions are keen to engage and support the Maritime industry to ensure that members receive the best outcomes at retirement. This, we are advised, is reflected in the lower than usual AMC of 0.25%, which is 20% lower than the AMC currently offered under the ERP default investment strategy.

Those shipping employers who participate in ERP had until 25th November 2022 to opt-out of moving to Smart Pension and offer an alternative arrangement to their employees. We are advised that no employers have opted out and therefore will join Smart Pension once the transfer takes place in 2023.

Current ERP contributing members will move to Smart Pension unless they informed the administrator of the Plan, Aegon, before 23 December 2022. 

ERP members retirement savings will continue to be invested and held securely as normal, but in due course these retirement savings will be transferred to Smart Pension or if members have chosen a different scheme they will be transferred to the scheme of their choice. 

If members have questions about the transfer, they can contact Aegon by email at my.pension@aegon.co.uk or by calling 01733 353495.

The RMT is not regulated to give financial advice to members but if members need such advice, we recommend they seek independent financial advice. Such advice can be sourced by visiting unbiased.co.uk government website.

I will keep you updated on developments.

Yours sincerely



Description automatically generated


Michael Lynch

General Secretary