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

Memorandum by Captain R B Bradbury (FUS 37)

  1. It is doubtful whether there is any national action the industry and government could take to achieve this goal. Any action would have to involve and international initiative to restore the standards of vessel inspection, certification and maintenance and the levels of education, training and qualifications of officers and crews, which obtained when the international shipping industry was largely the preserve of the developed countries. Only then would the UK fleet be able to compete on quality and customer service with third world fleets whose crew costs would inevitably remain well below ours. Such initiatives seem unlikely.

  2. It is difficult to see any viable method of encouraging UK ship registration, short of compulsion. The unfortunate fact is that the proper and safe manning and management of ships is expensive and that cargoes will always gravitate towards the cheapest operator with a sporting chance of safely delivering the cargo.

    (ii)  From a seaman's point of view, the IoM register has simply been a device whereby owners transferring to it impose much poorer conditions and salaries than are allowed under UK registry.

  3. No comment—what are those objectives?

  4. The present UK fleet could not sustain the nation's strategic needs in a time of large scale conflict. However, such a scenario seems increasingly unlikely. As to our international obligations, these also seem to be progressively diminishing. It is often said that the UK fleet could not sustain another Falklands campaign. Perhaps we could but certainly nothing larger.

  5. There is already a shortfall of qualified experienced officers even for the present truncated UK fleet. This is because there is no longer a progressive career structure with appropriate salary levels in place. It is unfortunate that the establishment of a sufficiently large fleet to provide the former would be prejudiced to a great extent by the implementation of the latter.

  6. The only EU country which could claim any success with similar problems is Denmark. They are world leaders in the operation of very large, very fast containerships, with Maersk Line. This is a vertically integrated company in that they design, build, engine, man and operate their fleet entirely "in house". This, and the fact that container shipping is highly technologically sophisticated, must give them great advantages. At the same time Denmark has one of the highest wage economies in the EC, yet is able to compete successfully with third world fleets. What are they doing right?

  7. The insurance and shipbroking services in the City do not rely upon UK Owners for their business. They are lucky to operate in the truly global market where only quality and value are the criteria for success.

Captain R B Bradbury

Deep Sea Pilot

George Hammond plc

2 November 1998

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