19 July 2017
RMT Press Office:
Seafarers union RMT today issued a cautious welcome to the recommendations in a Government commissioned report on the future of the Support for Maritime Training (SMarT) scheme, the main source of public sector funding for merchant seafarer training.
Mick Cash, RMT General Secretary said:
“Whilst the SMarT scheme mainly benefits officer cadet trainees, RMT is pleased that the consultants’ report to the Shipping Minister recommends increasing the SMarT fund in order to develop and increase the number of officers and ratings in the UK merchant navy.
"It is vital that the number of UK ratings trained through SMarT increases and that the shipping industry uses the full allocation of public money for this purpose.
"We urge the Government to accept the review’s recommendations, particularly on developing a system of training UK ratings that is publicly funded and fit for the purpose of dramatically increasing the number of qualified ratings.
"RMT stand ready to work with Government and industry to achieve this but we must be quick, in order to avoid irreparable damage to our maritime skills base which would have intolerable strategic, as well as economic consequences for the UK.”
RMT National Secretary, Steve Todd commented:
“This report once again confirms the importance of political will in saving the UK ratings workforce, seafarer communities and the national economy from disaster.
"It makes all the right noises on ensuring that the extremely modest stream of funding for ratings through SMarT 3 and 5 not only continues but is increased as part of an effective overall strategy for training and employing the next generation of UK deck, engine, catering and hospitality ratings. It even acknowledges the importance of retaining ratings in deep sea roles to the national maritime skills base.
"This is another step in the right direction but the ball remains firmly in the Government’s court. We trust that the Shipping Minister, who has been supportive to date, will use this report to recruit and train more British seafarers, officers and ratings, in the numbers we need.”
1. The SMarT scheme was introduced by the Labour Government in 1998. It currently provides £15m a year to industry, over 96% of which goes on officer cadet training costs.
2. Recommendation 9 of the Maritime Growth Study (published September 2015) called on Government to ‘initiate a review of its Support for Maritime Training (SMarT) scheme for sea-going trainees.’
3. Consultants Frazer Nash and Oxford Economics conducted training and value for money reviews respectively of SMarT which were published by DfT today and can be downloaded here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/support-for-maritime-training-review
4. For Ratings, the Frazer Nash review states: Recommendation 7 (Priority - High):
Review and refine the training scheme for ratings to ensure a flow of high quality seafarers.
We recommend the following.
• Raise the funding per rating trainee (for watch ratings & general purpose ratings) to provide an incentive for industry to increase training numbers.
• A clarifying note should be sent to trade bodies and companies claiming tonnage tax, explicitly illustrating the option in tonnage tax of replacing cadets with trainee ratings. This could be by using a worked example, stating the preferred training pathway, stating the implications for at-sea training (e.g. greater provision of berths required) and highlighting the available funding.
• SMarT funding should be made available to facilitate the professional development of ratings to more senior rating roles (i.e. in addition to the rating to officer conversion). Experienced British senior ratings are highly regarded by industry and this will strengthen the UK’s ability to provide high quality senior ratings. This will require further work in consultation with trade bodies to develop this case.
• Whilst tonnage tax issues lie outside the scope of this review, we suggest that consideration be given to allowing more flexibility within the rating tonnage tax option than the current restriction to Able Seafarers (for example, extend to watch ratings and general purpose ratings). The Post Implementation Review after the initial trial of the tonnage tax Minimum Training Obligation for ratings should consider the type of ratings training covered and the most appropriate rating: officer ratio.
5. The Oxford Economics report concluded that: “The value for money of SMarT 3 and 5 [the ratings training routes] … rests on a political judgement of whether the government wishes to continue to invest in the training of seafarer ratings to maintain a merchant naval capability which can be operated without reliance on non-UK seafarers.”
6. During the Future of UK Maritime Debate in Westminster Hall, 12th January 2017, the Shipping Minister, Rt. Hon John Hayes MP stated: “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.”
7. The number of UK ratings currently in training is estimated to be around 200. Only 200 new ratings were trained between 1999 and 2009. The total number of UK Ratings at sea in the merchant navy today is estimated by the DfT to be 8,880. Over half of all UK Ratings are aged over 40 years rising to around 75% of Deck and Engine Ratings. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/seafarer-statistics-2016