The Demise of our Merchant Navy - A naval officer speaks out
BRITAIN’S Merchant Navy has a proud history from the days of armed merchantmen to the invaluable support they provided in the wars of the last century.
Britain used to have one of the greatest merchant fleets in the world, with vessels plying their trade all over the globe. Sadly this is no longer the case because new international laws have changed the Merchant Navy beyond recognition.
Successive British governments have accepted these laws with no regard for the consequences to British jobs in the industry and the reduced merchant tonnage now operating with British crews.
It is the International Maritime Organisation which is behind the changes, introducing new legislation which favours Third World tonnage and seafarers.
Initially, training and certification was governed by the Standards of Training and Certification of Watch Keepers which came into force in 1978. This laid down the minimum qualifications required for the certification of marine professionals. These rules served our fleet well and allowed the certification of officers and men in accordance with our trade requirements.
The British fleet had three areas of operation, namely Home Trade (coastal areas including the Irish Sea, North Sea and local trading areas), Middle Trade which covered to the Mediterranean and Black Sea and Foreign Going.
Under the regulations it was possible for people to train and obtain qualifications which would allow them to sail in their relevant level in whichever area of operation they chose. But then the International Maritime Organisation decreed that revisions were needed to harmonise the certificate structures worldwide.
The tonnage limit of coastal vessels was reduced from the original 5000 and 1500 limits to a paltry 500, which has no practical use at all. The limited European Trading Area was revised to Near Coastal which limits people qualified in this area to 150 nautical miles off the UK coast and 30 nautical miles off Eire, where previously it allowed people to navigate vessels across the whole North Sea.
The changes have led to a shortage of qualified personnel and this gap is now being filled by mariners from Third World countries. They benefit from lower costs, reduced college fees and adaptations to the current legislation which favour their naval organisations. These people often have limited English which presents a danger in itself.
Our Merchant fleet is coming to the end of its days because the Government is not standing up and defending the industry.
In the not too distant future, all seafarer, shore-based ship pilot and associated jobs will be filled by foreigners, and one of Britain’s great institutions and the skills that go with it will have been lost forever.
This report appears in the June issue of the British National Party’s monthly newspaper, Freedom