UK Seafarer Projections

Circular No: NP/011/17


Our ref: S1/1/17

26th January 2017

Dear Colleagues

Publication of the UK Seafarer Projections review

Further to circular no. NP/0173/15 of 22nd September 2015, the Maritime Growth Study (MGS) recommended a review of future supply and demand for seafarers, Ratings and Officers, in the UK shipping industry. The Government commissioned private consultants Oxford Economics to carry out this work and the findings were published last week, here:

RMT was consulted as part of this study and the final report is stark but potentially helpful to the aims of the RMT’s SOS 2020 campaign for Government and industry action to reverse the decline in UK Ratings and to repair the national maritime skills base through more training and jobs. In particular, we now have reliable, independently calculated figures for the number of Ratings working in the UK shipping industry. These figures, as set out below, reveal a far larger Ratings workforce in the UK shipping industry than previously thought.

The following findings in the UK Seafarer Projections report are worth noting:

•    The report calculates that in 2015 a total of 87,000 Ratings were employed in the UK shipping industry. This is broken down to 28,000 non-hospitality (deck, engine and other tech) and 59,000 hospitality (including catering) Ratings employed in the UK shipping industry.
•    According to the Government’s UK Seafarer Statistics, published yesterday, as of June 2016 there were 8,880 UK Ratings, making up around 10% of the total Ratings workforce in the UK shipping industry.
•    Demand in the UK shipping industry for non-hospitality and hospitality Ratings is forecast to grow 7% (2,000) and 35% (21,000) respectively by 2026. The forecast of a large increase in demand for hospitality Ratings assumes continued strong growth in the international cruise sector.
•    The report forecasts a shortage in the supply of non-hospitality Ratings to the UK shipping industry of 2,700 by 2026, with particularly acute shortages forecast in the supply of deck, electro-technical and general purpose Ratings.
•    For UK seafarers to meet the forecast increases in demand for deck Ratings, the report states that the number aged under 30 in training will need to rise from 122 (2015 figure) to 470 per year. The report makes no estimate of how many UK engine, electro-technical or general purpose Ratings need to be trained each year in order to meet future increases in demand.
•    For UK seafarers to meet the forecast increase in demand for hospitality/hotel Ratings, a three-fold increase in the number of under 30s in training will be required to supply around 15,000 by 2026.
•    Global demand for non-hospitality Ratings is forecast to increase by nearly 15% (111,000) to 2026.
•    One third of all UK seafarers and half of UK deck and engine ratings are aged 50 years or over.

The report points out that the UK shipping industry would only need to make small increases in its existing recruitment of non-UK seafarers in order to meet the forecast increases over the next decade in demand for Ratings across all departments.

It also records the UK shipping industry’s increasingly heavy reliance on non-UK Ratings to meet increasing demand over the previous decade. This reinforces the union’s view that the Government must legislate to end widespread practices such as nationality based pay discrimination and non-enforcement of the National Minimum Wage for seafarers if it is serious about increasing training and employment for UK Ratings.

During a debate on the future of the UK maritime industry earlier this month, the Shipping Minister said:

I think that we are doing too little on [seafarer] recruitment and that we need to do more on [maritime] skills…More can be done, and in my discussions on the industrial strategy I will raise the continuing importance of training in this sector. We need to recruit and train more British seafarers. It is as simple as that. – John Hayes MP, 12 January 2017.

The union has secured a meeting with the Shipping Minister at the end of February, at which we will press him to commit to taking immediate action to reverse the continued decline in UK Ratings training and employment. The union will make a number of policy demands of the Government, including that they produce a legislative timetable by September for ending nationality based pay discrimination in the UK shipping industry.  

The Seafarer Projections review is generally helpful to the union’s SOS 2020 campaign aims. Not only does the report confirm that shipowners’ cost cutting recruitment practices in the UK shipping industry are an imminent threat to the future of the UK’s maritime skills base, it provides figures for the existing Ratings workforce and reasonably sounds forecasts for growth in demand for Ratings in the UK shipping industry over the next decade. These will help sharpen the union’s demands to the UK and devolved Governments, and to the shipping industry.

It would be appreciated if you could bring the content of this circular to the attention of all branch members and you will be updated with further developments.

Yours sincerely
Mick Cash
General Secretary