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Maritime 2050 is a call for action amid declining cadet numbers

29 February 2024

In a recent meeting with the new Maritime Minister, Lord Davies, the importance of the ‘people’ chapter of Maritime 2050 strategy was underscored by Nautilus International general secretary Mark Dickinson amid an ageing workforce and declining intake of officer cadets in the UK.

The Transport Select Committee (TSC) considered the Maritime 2050 strategy and published its report last year, with the government accepting most of the recommendations. Government must now deliver all the recommendations of the Maritime Skills Commission (MSC) and its Seafarer Cadet Review Report, including the resulting Cadet Training and Modernisation Programme (CT&M), Mr Dickinson said.

The union’s call for action includes 100% SMarT funding for cadet training and the proposal for a National Maritime Training Organisation to ensure that cadet training and sea time is of the highest standard.

Concerns were raised about the recent Department for Transport 2023 seafarer statistics, which shows the number of new entrants to officer cadet training in 2023 was 580, some 2% lower than in 2022 and 23% below the pre-pandemic financial year ending 2020. This continues a long-term downward trend and highlights the overall decline in cadet numbers to 1,450 - 8% below 2023.

While there are limitations in the latest data, due to changes made by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) in how it is collected, there is an apparent overall decline of active seafarers at sea, possibly a lingering effect of the Covid pandemic.

Other issues discussed include the security situation in the Red Sea. Mr Dickinson confirmed measures agreed by the UK WOAC and IBF WOAC seek to protect seafarers as well as enabling them to exercise their right to demand repatriation prior to entering high-risk areas.

Stagnant UK flag growth and the absurdity of the government’s longstanding support for the Red Ensign Group was highlighted by Mr Dickinson. Sixty percent of UK-owned tonnage is registered abroad, much of it is thought to be in the REG Category 1 registers of the Isle of Man, Bermuda, Gibraltar and Cayman Islands.

Mr Dickinson said: ‘It was pleasing to meet the new Maritime Minister. Lord Davies is genuinely impressed by what our members do and understands their deserved “key worker” status and the importance of maintaining a strong UK-registered fleet. I look forward to meeting him again to follow up on the matters we discussed, including improving conditions for our cadets and extending SMarT funding to the maximum extent allowed, and of course also showcasing our amazing welfare work at Mariners’ Park.’


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