As discussions over the UK's withdrawal from the European Union get under way, Brexit negotiators have been reminded of the importance of the country's maritime sector in negotiations and the need to provide enhanced seafarer employment and training.
In a briefing ahead Seafarers Awareness Week, which runs between 24 and 30 June, the maritime charity Seafarers UK predicts an increased UK dependence on the maritime industry for imports of global goods, and a growth in cruise and ferry services, and fishing quotas. It says such growth has potential for improved employment opportunities for British seafarers, given the political will and public awareness and support.
Director general Commodore Barry Bryant commented: 'As so often in our history when facing political and international pressures, our relationship with the sea provides the strong and enduring stage from which our island and its people can make their mark, whether in trade, defence or diplomacy.
'Our unique situation and the quality of our maritime offerings in seafaring people, port and supply chain operations and financial services remains second to none and give us a strong negotiating hand. But they are reliant on the understanding and support of the whole country. Seafarers Awareness Week will strive to carry that message to every corner of our nation.'
Seafarers UK predicts world trade will probably increase the 95% of imports and exports that currently pass through UK sea ports. Half the UK's food comes from overseas and the nation is dependent on imported oil, gas and biofuel for its power stations and vehicles.
Our unique situation and the quality of our maritime offerings in seafaring people, port and supply chain operations and financial services remains second to none and give us a strong negotiating hand
Passenger numbers on cruise ships and ferries look set to continue to grow, 'albeit with industry concerns voiced about the need to retain agreeable border control relationships with our European neighbours,' the charity notes.
This year's Seafarers Awareness Week will focus on promoting maritime employment opportunities – including shore-based jobs. Currently more than 100,000 UK nationals are estimated to work at sea, on vessels ranging from workboats and superyachts to tankers and container ships, as well as in the Royal Navy.
'Our Royal and Merchant Navies are currently crying out for new seafarers, particularly those with engineering skills, and globally there is a huge demand forecast for Merchant Navy officers of all specialisations, the best of whom are trained by the UK's renowned maritime academies and colleges,' Seafarers UK adds.
To mark Seafarers Awareness Week, Nautilus is planning to formally launch its findings from an in-depth study of crew communications. These will be presented at a shipping industry seminar being held at the end of the week.