Union relieved as training for merchant seafarers escapes the axe

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Nautilus International has welcomed the shipping minister’s announcement that the UK government will continue to provide support for the training of merchant seafarers.

Fears for the future of the Support for Maritime Training (SMarT) scheme – which covers around 40% of the costs of the three-year studies to gain a Merchant Navy officer’s certificate – were generated when the government announced a wide-ranging review of the measures last year.

But shipping minister Mike Penning has announced that, following an independent analysis of SMarT, the government had decided to retain the scheme and guarantee support at £12m a year for the life of the Parliament, including 2014-15.

The focus of the support will be on training cadets to their first certificate of competency, for ratings’ training and for ratings studying to become officers.

The minister also announced number of additional changes to the SMarT system, including skewing payments so that more is paid over when the cadet qualifies and tightening up accountability so that the outcomes of the support can be better measured. Mr Penning said he will also consider longer-term options to deliver Merchant Navy training within an overarching skills and apprenticeship framework.

Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson said: “We greatly welcome this announcement. The fact that this review was being conducted against the background of cuts in public spending was of immense concern, and we are very pleased that the government has recognised the value to this maritime nation of supporting investment in seafarer training.

“A continued supply of maritime professionals is essential not only for the UK Merchant Navy, but for the country’s maritime infrastructure and for key industries and services such as marine pilotage, surveying, classification, maritime law, shipbroking and financial services.

“SMarT is a vital element in continuing our proud tradition of seafaring and maintaining the UK maritime cluster in the face of intense international competition.”


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