The head of the UK shipowners’ organisation has called for the government to double the value of the Support for Maritime Training (SMarT) scheme.
Speaking at the annual dinner of the UK Chamber of Shipping, president Tom Boardley criticised the ‘myths and clichés’ surrounding the debates over the industry’s future and called for action to address the real issues.
‘We have too few British seafarers and a flag in decline,’ Mr Boardley said. ‘They are facts.’
The Chamber president said there was too much talk about the need to encourage more young people into the industry whilst ignoring the fact that many companies have hundreds, if not thousands of people applying for their cadet programmes every year.
‘The truth is we have many young people wanting a career at sea,’ he added. ‘Our problem is we don’t have enough opportunities to give them.’
Substantial investment is required to address the steady decline of British seafarers, Mr Boardley said. ‘Gone are the days of tinkering with SMaRT funding. If we are serious, if we are genuinely serious about training more British seafarers we need SMarT funding not just to increase, but to double.
‘If the Department for Transport can find £50bn to spend on High Speed 2, roads and local transport, I would hope you can find another £15m to train the next generation of world-class seafarers.’
Mr Boardley said there is also a need for ‘real and tangible’ reform of the UK Ship Register, with a Maritime & Coastguard Agency ‘that’s hungry for that next big success, ambitious and focussed in pursuit of growth’.