Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by the Shipbuilders and Shiprepairers Association (FUS 5)

THE FUTURE OF THE UK SHIPPING INDUSTRY

1. UK SHIPBUILDING AND REPAIRING

  The industry now employs on a direct basis some 26,000 people in UK yards, building and repairing merchant ships and warships. Typically, some 5,000 sub-contractors will be at work in yards as well.

  About half of the merchant vessel work undertaken in UK yards is to the account of UK shipowners and managers. Turnover on merchant vessels work is around £500 million per year.

2. THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN YARDS AND SHIPOWNERS

  Shipbuilding and shiprepairing contracted sharply in the UK in the 1970's and 1980's. Similar contraction was seen in many European countries and in Japan. Building is now holding steady, and repair and conversion have exhibited a significant recovery in the last few years. Some ship types cannot now be built in the UK, so UK owners have no choice but to buy from non-UK yards. The UK capability in repair and conversion is more extensive. SSA has worked closely with the Chamber of Shipping and with the British Marine Equipment Council to ensure that all the key UK elements in the maritime industry are aware of each others' requirements, with a view to increasing the value retained in the UK.

3. MARITIME INDUSTRY SKILLS

  As shipyards have become busier in the last few years, so skills shortages have appeared. Yards used to take on a training role in excess of their own requirements to supply skilled labour into surrounding support industries and into the engineering sector generally. They no longer have the size or the financial muscle to do this. Yards also were suppliers of engineering skills to the Merchant Navy, and in their turn also drew on the skills of Merchant Navy engineer officers and ratings. With the reduced size of both the total yard workforce and of the Merchant Navy, this valuable interchange of skills can only take place on a much reduced scale.

4. SSA RECOMMENDATIONS

  Against forecasts of substantial growth in the requirements for shipping worldwide, and thus significant opportunities of the UK maritime industries, SSA recommends the introduction of measures to assist and encourage the growth of the UK merchant fleet. As well as the direct benefit to the UK economy that a large UK fleet would bring, it should be recognised that there is a clear propensity on the part of UK shipowners to build and repair their ships in the UK where possible, and that this would produce yet more employment and value to the UK economy.

  Further, SSA invites the Sub-Committee to recognise the importance of the availability of an increased pool of skilled engineering labour that would be created by an enlarged UK merchant fleet and the value to both sides of an increased interchange of that pool of skills between the UK fleet and UK shipyards.

30 November 1998


 
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