UK Seafarers: positive new statistics mask reality

Wed, 27 January 2016

UK Seafarer statistics launched today show a slight overall increase of 2% from 2015, rising to 23,380 at the end of June 2015. However, UK Chamber CEO, Guy Platten, warns that decisive action will be necessary to ensure future growth

The figures show: 

  • The total number of UK seafarers active at sea was estimated to be 23,380 
  • The number of UK officers remained at 10,930 - largely unchanged from 2014
  • The total number of UK Ratings rose by 5% to around 8,830 – the first increase in the number of ratings since 2011. 
  • The number of officer cadets in training remained static at around 2000, with a small increase of new entrants under the SMarT scheme.

The annual Seafarer Statistics are produced by the Department for Transport and reflect numbers as at the end of June 2015.

Commenting on the figures, UK Chamber CEO, Guy Platten remarked:

“It is vital for the future of UK Shipping that the number of UK seafarers increase to meet the demands of the global industry as the volume of sea trade is set to increase and with highly respected training and safety standards the UK is well-placed to meet these demands.

“Whilst these figures seem to indicate a nascent recovery in the number of active UK seafarers, we must not be blind to the challenges that our industry faces.

“The collapse of the oil price in recent years, the true impact of which is yet to be fully evaluated and the severe challenges facing the North Sea oil and offshore industries, may not be fully reflected in these figures. It is therefore vital that the industry and government take decisive action to ensure that these positive trends are not stopped short. 

“That is why the UK Chamber is calling for SMarT funding to be doubled. 

“That is why we are working with government, in Westminster and Holyrood, to explore means to support the offshore sector in the North Sea. 

“That is why it is vital that the UK remain a competitive and attractive destination for maritime businesses and that we grow and nurture a strong UK skills base.”

On the training of UK Ratings and Officers, Glenys Jackson, Head of the Merchant Navy Training Board said: 

“Faced with an aging demographic – with over half of UK officers aged over 41 – we must ensure that the UK is able to address the inevitable shortage of seafarers or face the reality of a missing generation of UK seafarers as other nationalities fill this shortfall. 

"To secure the future of a UK seafaring generation we must ensure that the UK remains a competitive destination to train seafarers. The figures clearly demonstrate that when SMarT funding was cut there was a marked decline in officers being trained, with it restored this has increased slightly – only through a significant boost will the shortfall be filled. 


“It is certainly pleasing to see the work of the MNTB, the chamber and our union partners in recent years come to fruition with a definite increase in the number of UK Ratings and we will continue to press this agenda forward.” 


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