The UK could be left dependent on foreign shipping and workforces after further investment or incentives for training schemes aimed at UK seafarers have been omitted in the Autumn Budget 2017, maritime trade union Nautilus International warned.
The union has been lobbying the government to double its Support for Maritime Training (SMarT) funding investment to GBP 30 million and to back the SMarT Plus proposal to enable newly-qualified officers to get vital seagoing watchkeeping experience, and further support to attain their senior level Certificate of Competency (CoC).
What is more, the union said it was disappointed by the government’s further failure to pledge to review the UK tonnage tax scheme. While the measure has helped to boost seafarer numbers, Nautilus warns that without continuous re-evaluation it will fall short of plugging the forecast national maritime skills gap.
“We are extremely disappointed that the Chancellor has sold the maritime industry short in his budget announcement. Especially when commitments were made to rail, road and air, the shipping industry has once again been overlooked at what is a critical time for the country’s maritime resilience,” Mark Dickinson, Nautilus General Secretary, commented.
“The UK’s shipping industry is battling a significant decline in seafarer numbers and we are in danger of that figure shrinking even further without intervention, making us dangerously dependent on foreign shipping companies – something that will be of increasing importance in the post-Brexit environment,” he concluded, adding that Nautilus will continue to campaign on these issues.
On the other hand, the stability of tax rules is of vital importance to the UK shipping sector and it is encouraging that the country’s government continued to provide a stable regime in its budget, shipping adviser Moore Stephens said in a separate statement.
The budget includes some specific further assistance for the offshore sector, with the introduction of a transferable tax history mechanism for UK oil producers.
While there are no new developments relating specifically to the shipping industry in the budget, there are some items worthy of note, according to the shipping adviser. Under current rules, where a company realizes a capital gain, the original cost will be adjusted for an inflation allowance. This allowance will now be frozen from January 1, 2018. Meanwhile, the Research & Development (R&D) tax credit will be increased from 11% to 12%.
“Once again it is a case of a UK Budget where little or no specific maritime-related news is good news for the UK shipping sector, while the offshore industry has been given some further, welcome help,” Sue Bill, Moore Stephens Tax Partner, noted.