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Home Headlines Chronic ‘sea blindness’ threatens UK maritime resilience

Chronic ‘sea blindness’ threatens UK maritime resilience

by Staff GBAF Publications Ltd


Launching its benchmarking Maritime Barometer report, maritime professionals’ union, Nautilus International, has raised concerns that a lack of knowledge about the UK’s maritime industry is threatening its maritime resilience, despite the country’s reliance upon shipping as an island nation.

The union’s research found that only one in a thousand people (0.1%) know that more than 95% of goods that are consumed in the country arrive by sea, with respondents on average estimating the figure to be 48%, despite this being almost double in reality.

The survey of individuals in the UK also found that only a third (33%) of Brits believe that they know what their nearest port is, with two thirds unable to hazard a guess, despite the vital role they play in the nation’s supply chain.

The British public were also asked about the professions that they believe should be seen as ‘key workers’ during times of crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the integral role they play in bringing vital supplies to our shores, only a fifth of the UK public (21%) believe that seafarers deserve this status, compared with doctors (68%), supermarket assistants (58%) and delivery drivers (57%).

Nautilus International general secretary Mark Dickinson said: “Unfortunately, despite our long maritime history and status as an island nation, much of the public’s knowledge when it comes to shipping and seafaring is stuck in the past.

“This out of sight, out of mind attitude towards the maritime sector – or sea blindness – is putting the UK in a perilous position, given the vital role it plays in all of our lives, every single day. It is easy to see and acknowledge the delivery drivers and retail workers who help us put food on the table and clothes in the wardrobe but without seafarers, these shelves and wardrobes would be empty.

“As an island nation with a proud maritime history, we must do more to understand, appreciate and crucially, promote the maritime industry to underpin our maritime resilience and ensure that the nation’s maritime skills needs are future proofed and that we have the maritime professionals in place to continue delivering to these shores both now and in the decades to come.”

The UK’s maritime interests have suffered dramatic decline in recent years. The UK Ship Register (UKSR) fell from 1,600 vessels in 1975 to just 328 in 2020. Over the same period, the number of British merchant seafarers declined by around two-thirds, with that number set to fall by a further one-third over the next decade.

The number of UK seafarers active at sea fell sharply in 2021 due to coronavirus pandemic pressures. An estimated 21,970 UK seafarers were active at sea in 2021 – a whopping 8% decrease compared with 2020 (23,880), according to the latest Department for Transport (DfT) data.

Nautilus International conducted its Maritime Barometer survey to highlight the current situation within the shipping industry and understand the attitudes and knowledge of those outside of it.

The survey results serve as a springboard to enhance knowledge about the sector, encourage change within the industry, make shipping a more attractive career option and foster a better understanding of the needs of maritime professionals in the UK.

For more information about Nautilus International and for further findings from its maritime barometer, visit https://bit.ly/maritime_barometer.