Former shipping minister John Hayes said in 2017 that the UK must increase the number of qualified officers joining the industry by at least 1,500 each year.
The minister of state for transport said that research demonstrates that there is a clear demand for deck and engineering officers and that this is only likely to grow in the future.
The comments came on the eve of London International Shipping Week (LISW), which started on 11 September 2017, and highlighted the current seafarer shortage problems and that more work needs to be done that focusses on the quality of maritime training.
'The government invests £15m in maritime training through SMarT,' explained Conservative minister Mr Hayes. 'That clearly helps to train maritime cadets and ratings. It also helps junior officers who want to upskill and progress their careers.
'However, in January 2016 I published a report that found that there is currently a demand for deck and engineering officers and that demand will increase in the future.
'The report predicted that we need to close the gap in the relationship between supply and demand. We'll need the number of newly qualified officers joining the industry in the UK each year to grow between 1,500 and 1,600.
We know that the UK faces a huge challenge to maintain an adequate quantity – and quality – of officers for the world merchant fleet. We believe that the government must work closely with the Union in order to combat this escalating problem
'There is really an important piece of work to be done to refocus on the quality for the training and to look at how we can build and grow it,' he added.
Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson said the minister's concerns about skills shortages are shared by the Union and, as a major issue for members, they need addressing sooner rather than later. 'It's pleasing to hear the minister speaking of the importance of addressing the officer shortfall,' Mr Dickinson explained.
'We know that the UK faces a huge challenge to maintain an adequate quantity – and quality – of officers for the world merchant fleet. We believe that the government must work closely with the Union in order to combat this escalating problem. We must act now, or face severe consequences in the future.'
To address the issue, Nautilus International will team up with the Merchant Navy Training Board (MNTB) and the UK Chamber of Shipping during LISW with a free careers and skills hub to answer the question 'so where are the jobs?'.
The discussion formed part of the Union's ongoing strategic campaign Job, Skills and the Future. The free event took place on Tuesday 12 September 2017 at the UK Chamber of Shipping and included presentations by a serving seafarer as well as the Union's deputy general secretary Marcel van den Broek.