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employment at sea – a hugely impressive return on the government’s investment and confirmation of the success of industry campaigns to recruit high- quality people into the sector. Current new recruits are consistently more than double pre-SMarT levels. In January, the government announced that the


SMarT funding scheme would be retained for the duration of this parliament. Recognising the value of the scheme to the maritime sector was a good decision by the minister, following positive input from the review panel.


National minimum wage Current guidance from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) states that a seafarer is entitled to be paid at least the national minimum wage (NMW) whenever his or her ship is in UK waters, regardless of where it is registered. However, this is contradicted by advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office that the wage cannot be applied to seafarers on foreign ships on innocent passage through UK territorial waters; national policy follows the international custom not to seek to enforce laws affecting the internal economy of a visiting ship while it is in a UK port. A government-established legal working


group concluded that persons serving on foreign- registered ships could only qualify for the NMW if they had a sufficiently close connection with the UK – a test that overseas-resident seafarers would be highly unlikely to satisfy. The Chamber believes that the government


should now make clear that seafarers who are not ordinarily resident in the UK have no entitlement to the NMW. The wage is designed to provide workers who live and incur their living costs in the UK with an acceptable standard of living.


Immigration Several member companies have reported difficulties in bringing non-EEA seafarers – legitimately – into the UK to join their ships. These have been caused by an apparent tightening of immigration policies and practices, particularly in embassies overseas to which seafarers apply for visas to join their ships in the UK. The Chamber considers that some entry clearance officers overseas, and border officials in the UK, have


18 EMPLOYMENT


THE CHAMBER


BELIEVES THAT, IN ORDER NOT TO PLACE UK FLAG OPERATORS AT A COMPETITIVE DISADVANTAGE, THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD NOW MAKE CLEAR THAT SEAFARERS WHO ARE NOT ORDINARILY RESIDENT IN THE UK HAVE NO ENTITLEMENT TO THE NATIONAL MINIMUM WAGE


misunderstood the rules governing the points- based system. The difficulties have been particularly noticeable


for ships stationed in the UK operating on the spot market, for non-scheduled cargo ships operating around the UK coast, ships temporarily stationed in a UK port but on call to carry out operations on the high seas and ships undergoing refit in UK yards that need crew for familiarisation and sea trials. The Home Office was alerted to these


difficulties and agreed to consider Chamber draft guidance, focusing particularly on those trades to which the points-based system did not apply, but where a significant number of seafarers had been refused entry to join their ships. We are currently awaiting a response.


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