Speaking at the transport select committee on his first day as the new maritime minister, Robert Courts MP pledged to work with international partners to tackle the ongoing crew change crisis.
In response to a question from High Peak MP Robert Largan on the priority items in his in-tray as he begins his new role, Mr Courts said: 'As we have heard, there are issues around the welfare of seafarers and the need to act interconnectedly with international partners. I will be looking to focus on that in the first few weeks.'
The committee had earlier heard from Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson about the plight of the estimated 300,000 seafarers worldwide stranded at sea beyond the end of their contract, as well as the same number again waiting for employment on land. The outgoing minister, Kelly Tolhurst MP won plaudits for her work in bringing together governments from around the world to seek a solution to the issue.
Aside from crew changes, the new minister also pledged to focus on a plan to ensure that the sector can recover from the seismic shock brought about by the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. 'We initially have the challenge of dealing with the covid crisis and then restarting and rebuilding as we move forward,' he said.
In his introductory remarks to the committee, Mr Courts also extended his gratitude to the 'keyworkers in maritime who have gone above and beyond throughout the pandemic and ensured that everything that we have needed has been brought in when it's been needed'.