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March 2012 | | telegraph | 07 NEWS

Relief as government saves aid for training

Union and owners welcome minister’s decision to keep £12m a year funding for SMarT P

Nautilus has joined UK owners in welcoming the shipping minister’s

announcement that the govern- ment will continue to provide support for the training of mer- chant seafarers. Fears for the future of the Sup- port for Maritime Training (SMarT) scheme — which covers around 40% of the costs of the three-year studies to gain a Mer- chant Navy o•cer’s certificate — were generated when the govern- ment announced a wide-ranging review of the measures last year. But shipping minister Mike Penning announced last month that —following an independent economic analysis of SMarT — the government had decided to retain the scheme and guarantee support at £12m a year for the life of this Parliament, including 2014-15. Nautilus general secretary

Mark Dickinson commented: ‘We greatly welcome this announce- ment. The fact that this review was being conducted against the background of cuts in public spending was of immense con- cern, and we are very pleased that the government has recognised the value to this maritime nation of supporting investment in sea- farer training. ‘A continued supply of mar- itime professionals is essential not only for the UK Merchant Navy, but for the country’s mar- itime infrastructure and for key

Mr Penning said he had con-

cluded that continued govern- ment support for maritime train- ing is required. ‘The consultants’ findings, accepted by the inde- pendent panel, were that there was a good value-for-money case for the retention of government funding,’ he added. Under the new arrange-

ments — which take effect in August this year — the majority of the SMarT budget will be focussed on supporting initial training for cadets studying at junior o•cer level, with the remainder supporting ratings’ training and ratings-to-o•cer con- version training.

Students at the Shetland-based NAFC Marine Centre are pictured at the 21st annual prize-giving ceremony last month. Award winners included: Steve Pottinger (Sea Fishing Level 2 Deckhand Prize); Joe Huntly (Forbes Watt Prize for Navigation); Ryan Trumpess (NLB Deck Cadet Prize); Jerry Gibson (NLB Engineer Cadet Prize); Colin Hodder (Nautical Institute first-year deck cadet prize); Calum Fraser (Bells Nautical Prize for a third-year deck cadet); Liam Cumming (Clyde Marine Deck Prize); Callum Pottinger (Northstar Shipping Prize); Derek Spence (Clyde Marine Engineer Prize); Ben Hughson (NAFC Marine Centre Modern Apprentice of the Year award); and Abigail Barlow (Jim Thomas Memorial Prize)

industries and services such as marine pilotage, surveying, clas- sification, maritime law, ship- broking and financial services,’ he added.

‘SMarT is a vital element in

continuing our proud tradition of seafaring and maintaining the UK maritime cluster in the face of intense international competi- tion,’ Mr Dickinson said. Chamber of Shipping director- general Mark Brownrigg reported that owners were ‘delighted that

the government has recognised the value of the scheme to the maritime sector’ and said the retention of SMarT funding is of crucial importance. ‘We will con- tinue to do everything we can to ensure that recruitment can remain at a high level,’ he pledged. ‘This is vital to ensure a su•cient supply of personnel with professional maritime skills to both shipping companies and other employers throughout the UK’s maritime cluster.’

The Union and the owners had lobbied strongly in support of the training aid since the government first announced it was under review as part of the tough public spending constraints. But the results of the eco- nomic study, and a subsequent assessment by a six-strong panel of industry and training experts, underlined the case in favour of SMarT and were su•cient to con- vince the minister to keep the scheme.

Seafarers stranded in UK since October

FThe crew of a flag of convenience general cargoship

remained unpaid and stranded onboard the vessel last month more than four months after it was detained in the UK. The 3,529gt Westwind II, pictured

left, was detained by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency with 16 deficiencies after an inspection was carried out in October when the vessel ran aground on the NE breakwater off Portland Harbour. Nautilus/ITF inspector Chris Jones

and Roger Stone, local port chaplain for the Apostleship of the Sea, have

special disc unts “on airfares for marine personnel”

been supporting the 11 crew —trying to secure their unpaid wages and repatriation, but they remain caught in a seemingly never-ending merry- go-round. ‘The problem is the court needs

the Admiralty Marshal to agree to the sale of the vessel, but he won’t do that until the crew have left the ship,’ explained Mr Stone. ‘The crew can’t leave the vessel until they have their wages and the fish farm whose stocks were damaged in the grounding won’t receive their compensation until the vessel is sold. It’s almost a matter of who blinks first!’

FPictured above is UK minister for international development Alan Duncan, and Captain Ross Ferris, commanding officer of the Royal

Fleet Auxiliary vessel Fort Rosalie. The minister toured the ship during a recent visit to the Caribbean island of Grenada, where the vessel also hosted a reception for members of the UK-Caribbean Forum, which unites politicians and business representatives to identify ways of working together to improve business ties between both regions.

Mr Penning announced some

associated changes to the current scheme which seek to maximise the intake of trainees and to tighten monitoring of the system, so that the impact of the scheme can be better measured. There will also be a new procedure for paying SMarT, with training providers receiving £80 a week for the first 50 weeks, £110 a week for the next 100 weeks (£100 a week from August next year) and a final payment of £2,950 to be made following documentary evi- dence that the cadet has obtained the first certificate of competency. Mr Penning said he will also be

considering longer-term options to deliver Merchant Navy train- ing within the apprenticeship framework. gFull report —page 21.

UK officer numbers set to fall by almost one-third

AThe number of British Merchant Navy officers is set to decline by

almost one-third over the next decade, a new Department for Transport report warns. The annual UK Seafarer Statistics

report notes that while the number of UK officers and ratings working at sea increased by around 5% since 2002, the numbers with deck and engine qualifications has fallen 15% over the same period. According to the analysis, the number of UK certificated officers active at sea in 2011 was around 11,000 — some 28% less than in 1997. The number of UK deck, engine and general purpose ratings was estimated at 4,000 last year — down by 22% from 2002. The report notes a sustained

increase in the number of UK officer trainees — with the average number of cadets in training standing at 1,820 in the 2010-11 academic year, against 1,000 in 1999-2000 —but shows that this is not sufficient to offset the numbers due to retire over the next decade. Around 60% of UK officers presently active at sea are aged 40 or over, and the high average age of the current workforce means that the number of officers is on course to decline by 29% by 2021. The situation for UK deck and

engine ratings is even more acute — with around 75% of those presently at sea being aged 40 or over. ‘These figures illustrate the serious

consequences of neglecting the need for maritime skills and underline the critical importance of continuing government support for the industry,’ said Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson.

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