The United Kingdom Shipping Register has been under intense pressure to restore some of its former glory and increase its tonnage. A significant policy change that could move towards that goal has not sat well with the country’s largest shipping union, which fears damaging effects on quality
Nautilus International fearful that latest changes from the UKSR could undermine quality.
UK-based shipping union Nautilus International has expressed concerns that recent expansionary efforts by the UK Ship Register could jeopardise its quality.
The UKSR revealed earlier this month that it has amended its ownership eligibility criteria and now also accepts owners and companies from the Commonwealth and those also permitted by the other flags of the Red Ensign Group, which consist of Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Gibraltar, Isle of Man and the UK, for vessels of unlimited size.
The latter amendment means that owners and companies from Panama, Marshall Islands, Liberia, Japan, the US and other nations will be qualified to register with the UK flag.
Until these recent changes, the UKSR allowed British citizens and companies, as well as those from countries of the European Economic Area, to register vessels.
But Nautilus, which represents more than 22,000 shipping professionals, predominantly in the UK, Netherlands and Switzerland, fears the expansion could have “potentially damaging effects” on the UKSR‟s high quality standards.
Nautilus general-secretary Mark Dickinson has written to the UKSR to secure assurances that all vessels registered with the UKSR have a clear link to their beneficial owners and that they strictly adhere to United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea provisions.
“I am keen to hear how the MCA will ensure that only „exceptional‟ shipping companies can use the UKSR and whether any measures will be taken against those who demonstrably jeopardise the good record of UK-registered vessels in port state control inspections,” Mr Dickinson said in a statement.
The UKSR has been under public pressure during the past couple of years to grow the ranks after a steep decline in tonnage a few years ago, but has struggled, partly because of the uncertainty caused by Brexit.
Its fleet stood at around 16.5m gt in February 2019, up from just less than 14m gt in late 2014, but down from 18m gt in 2011.
Nautilus is also worried about the UKSR‟s decision to allow vessels to temporarily flag in before deflagging again and to delegate surveying to recognised organisations, such as classification societies, while carrying out inspections and certifications “designed to suit customer needs”.
“Treating shipowners as customers may well reflect the reality of the freedom they have to choose a flag, but it denigrates the MCA‟s role as the regulator,” Mr Dickinson said.
Nautilus’s scepticism, came in stark contrast to that of industry association UK Chamber of Shipping, which welcomed the UKSR‟s policy changes.
UK chamber of shipping chief executive Bob Sanguinetti said he was pleased that the UK Ship Register is “being proactive and ambitious”.