Dr Grahaeme Henderson, President of the UK Chamber of Shipping has called on government, in Scotland and in Whitehall to provide further support to the UK maritime sector to ensure that jobs and businesses are able to face the challenges presented by current market conditions.
In a keynote speech to industry leaders and Scottish government representatives at the UK Chamber’s inaugural Summer Lunch in Edinburgh, Dr Henderson said: “The Scottish maritime industry contributes nearly £2 billion to the economy, and the productivity of the maritime workforce is 10% higher than the economy-wide average.
“However, we must be clear and honest as to the challenges the industry faces. Global market conditions have had a significant impact on jobs in the offshore sector – a sector that has helped drive prosperity, not just in Scotland but across the UK too.
“The industry has always had its ups and downs, but there is justifiable concern that the numbers of British seafarers based in Aberdeen and elsewhere are in decline.
“The skills required to work in the offshore sector are highly specialised, but with the right support they can be transferred into other areas of shipping; and government must act to provide support and funding to help seafarers re-skill and get back to sea.”
Dr Henderson also added: “Scotland is the home of world class maritime training facilities, which demonstrate the ambitions for its students, for the shipping industry, for its national economy, and its standing as a maritime world leader.
“The UK Government’s £15 million SMarT funding has helped to ensure that a new generation can go to sea. However we face international competition for seafarer training, often from countries who can do it far cheaper than we can.
“The UK Chamber is therefore calling on government to implement a SMarT Plus option and increase funding to incentivise companies to train more seafarers – who in return will commit to giving cadets their first job, ensuring the government sees a return on its investment.”
Scotland’s Minister for Transport and the Islands Mr Humza Yousaf MSP, who took up the position following the election in May, commented: “The Scottish Government and the shipping industry can work together to increase efforts to promote the positive contribution the shipping sector makes to the wider economy – as a renowned centre of excellence in the shipping industry, Scotland is a great place to do business, and we should publicise that throughout Europe and beyond.
"The maritime sector is an absolutely crucial part of sustaining and creating new quality jobs in Scotland. Building on these partnerships and collaboration will help ensure maritime growth.”