6 April 2016
RMT Press Office:
Shipping union RMT opposes Maritime and Coastguard Agency plans to axe marine offices.
Shipping Union RMT today stated its opposition to the Maritime & Coastguard Agency’s plans to reduce the national network of Marine Offices by 2019, through closures at the following locations Tyne and Plymouth (2017), Beverley, Harwich and Orpington (2018) and Norwich (2019).
Marine Offices provide essential administrative and technical support to seafarer Ratings and Officers, particularly in keeping documentation updated and providing services such as eye sight tests. They also provide a base, equipment store and other services for MCA surveyors and inspectors who handle thousands of inspections of domestic and international ships every year which includes carrying out the UK’s Port State Control responsibilities required under international law.
The MCA propose a number of changes to its working practices, including moving its Seafarers Documentation System online, a database of surveyor competence and outsourcing of survey and inspection work to ‘Recognised Organisations’ and Red Ensign Group administrations.
These proposals clearly amount to an attack on seafarer support and a major de-regulation in survey standards. This Government is once again putting the demands of international ship owners, operators and financiers above the needs of UK seafarers.
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:
“The MCA’s Marine Office closure plans are on a par with the Coalition’s dangerous cuts to coastguards and local tax offices. These plans would jeopardise the UK’s ability to operate a safe and secure ports network, as well as the future provision of seafarer services. The regional impact of these closures would also be damaging, with the plan to close the Tyne Marine Office in 2017 a particular threat to the North East economy and the cluster of maritime workers and services in the region, including the offshore supply and decommissioning sectors. RMT will fight to keep the Marine Office in Tyne and elsewhere open, to safeguard the future of seafarer services and to promote fast and effective certification of ships working from UK ports.”
Steve Todd, RMT National Secretary, said:
“The MCA have only allowed one month for this consultation which contains very serious proposals for the future shape and accessibility of the services Marine Offices provide for seafarers and MCA Surveyors and Inspectors. RMT has requested that the MCA extend this consultation but the fact remains that the regulator is seeking to reduce access to seafarer services and to outsource vessel Survey and Inspection work to the private sector. RMT would welcome an increase in the number of ships registered under the UK flag but this should not exclude UK seafarers from jobs and training on those ships. Neither should it be at the expense of the UK’s reputation as a quality flag with high safety standards.”
Notes to Editors
• The MCA plan to open two Marine Offices at sites in Bridlington and Ipswich but, overall, the number of Marine Offices will fall from 17 to 10. Three Marine Offices, at Brixham, Leith and Newlyn have already been closed, with no consultation. If the MCA’s plans are approved, by 2019 the UK will be left with ten Marine Offices in the following locations: Aberdeen, Glasgow, Belfast, Cardiff, Liverpool, Falmouth, Southampton, Dover, Ipswich and Bridlington.
• The MCA consultation document can be downloaded here and a hard copy is attached to this circular: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/changing-mca-survey-and-inspection
• The MCA has given one month for this consultation, with the deadline for responses currently 21st April. RMT has written to Alan Massey, Chief Executive of the MCA objecting to this unnecessarily short timeframe and demanding a 90-day rather than 30-day consultation, in order that RMT members can fully express their views on the MCA’s proposals.
• The MCA’s proposals result from its Survey and Inspection Transformation Programme which has been running since January 2015. They are also in line with the Government’s policy to make the MCA more ‘customer focused’ and to make the UK Flag more attractive to international ship owners and operators, with no guarantees over employment for UK Seafarers, the number of which is in potentially terminal decline.