Mark Dickinson, general secretary

Mark Dickinson is currently serving his third term as general secretary of maritime trade union Nautilus International and has held the position since the union formed in May 2009, following the merger of Nautilus UK and Nautilus NL.

Mark oversees the Nautilus mission to be an independent, influential, global trade union and professional organisation, committed to delivering high quality, cost effective services to members, and welfare to needy seafarers and their dependants.


Mark Dickinson has spent over 40 years in the maritime industry, which began when he joined the British Merchant Navy as a Navigating Cadet in 1978 at the age of 16. In 1983, having secured his Officer of the Watch Certificate he moved ashore to study and gained a Bachelor of Science with honours in Maritime Studies from the University of Wales. In 1992, he gained a master's degree with distinction in Industrial Relations from the London School of Economics.

Mark joined Nautilus International in 2000 (then known as NUMAST) as an executive officer. He previously worked for the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) in two spells from 1987 to 1991 and 1992 to 2000, from 1995 he was the ITF's assistant general secretary with responsibility for maritime activities.

At the ITF, he was responsible for the mission to locate MV Derbyshire which led to the reopening the formal inquiry into the tragic loss of that vessel. He also oversaw the ITF's Global Mariner campaign as the key part of the ITF's commemoration of the fight against the flag of convenience system.

During his time at both the ITF and Nautilus International, Mark was heavily involved in the development of the Maritime Labour Convention – the seafarers' Bill of Rights, from the initial concept to its adoption in 2006.

Mark is director of the Nautilus Federation which brings together 13 like-minded trade unions and associations dedicated to the mutual support of their members in the global shipping industry.

Mark's other roles include:

  • Elected spokesperson for European Seafarers on the EU Sectorial Social Dialogue Committee on maritime transport
  • ITF board advisor, ETF maritime transport section
  • ITF Seafarers' Section and Fair Practices Committee
  • UK Trades Union Congress (TUC) General Council member
  • UK TUC executive committee member
  • Merchant Navy Officers Pension Fund and Ensign Retirement Plan Trustee Director
  • Seafarers UK Trustee
  • Merchant Navy Welfare Board Trustee
  • Maritime Educational Foundation Trustee


Insights 2019

Archives of regular monthly message from Nautilus general secretary, also published in each edition of the Telegraph on the Welcome page.

From the general secretary June 2019

With a review of the UK Tonnage Tax on the horizon, Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson reflects on how valuable the scheme has been to British seafaring.

The latest figures from the UK Department for Transport have just been released, and they show that, while the number of UK seafarers (both officers and ratings) on Tonnage Tax vessels grew slightly in the last 12 months, the trend overall has been a steady decline since the scheme was launched in 2000.

In 2003/4, when the first complete figures were issued by the DfT, there were 6,091 officers employed on Tonnage Tax vessels, 48% of whom were British (2,951 UK officers). However, in 2018/19 a total of 7,836 officers were employed on Tonnage Tax vessels but only 26% came from the UK (2,066 officers), with 33% being EEA/EU and 40% coming from the rest of the world.

The position for British ratings is worse. Over the same period the number of UK ratings has fallen from 28% in '03/'04 to 13% in '18/'19, with three quarters being from outside the European Economic Area. The proportion of UK flagged vessels in the Tonnage Tax has also fallen. At its peak, around 95 companies had joined the Tonnage Tax and the majority of vessels were UK flagged. Today only 71 company groups remain in the scheme, with a total of 713 vessels and only 268 (38%) of these UK registered.

Nautilus has long held the view that the Tonnage Tax scheme did much to reverse the sharp decline in the size of the UK registered fleet and the number of UK cadets in training. It is easy to forget that in the late 1990s, training levels had plummeted to almost nothing and the fleet was in sharp decline. Today, thanks to the Tonnage Tax, we train on average about 750 cadets per year. With the additional support of SMarT and SMarT Plus these levels are set to increase significantly to around 1200 per year.

It is therefore beyond argument that government support has rejuvenated UK cadet training, encouraged inward investment and supported flag growth. But in terms of maritime skills as a whole, at best it prevented a total collapse.
Our Charter for Jobs called for a review of the Tonnage Tax scheme, and I am pleased that the government is now actively considering this and seeking our input. We know the shipowners too are eager for a review, and have been actively consulting and lobbying government for change with Brexit opportunities in mind.

What I want to ensure is that, in return for expanded financial support from the government, defined outcomes serve the national interest – a growing
UK registered fleet, enhanced employment for British seafarers and substantially more training opportunities for UK residents. This will support our maritime cluster and contribute to our economy, security and maritime resilience. Nothing less will do.

I know we can deliver more for the investment the government makes, because in our cross-border Union we have first-hand knowledge of the Dutch tonnage scheme introduced in 1996. According to government and shipowners' figures, out of 28,000 maritime professionals working in the maritime cluster, around 7,200 work directly in shipping – about a third ashore and two thirds at sea, mainly on Dutch-flagged ships.

Cadet numbers have also remained stable in the last ten years at around 500 per annum.

The flag has grown significantly since the Tonnage Tax scheme was introduced and remains resilient in the face of the lingering economic uncertainties triggered by the 2008/09 banking crisis. The costs of training is 100% covered by the government, and job and training guarantees for Dutch nationals are provided in mutual agreement with the shipowners. The working conditions of all seafarers (not only the Dutch) are secured through collective bargaining agreements concluded at national and company level.

Armed with our knowledge of the Dutch experience, we will be arguing that it is in the UK’s interest to train and employ home-grown maritime professionals and provide them with training and job guarantees. We will also be pushing for a flag link between the Tonnage Tax and the UK Ship Registry and for the government to cover 100% of the costs of training a cadet.

Britain is an island nation; it needs a strong merchant fleet and home-grown seafarers. The government's Maritime 2050 commitments offer a promising start, and we have a supportive and energetic shipping minister in Nusrat Ghani. However, as always, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.

meet the team: Nautilus officials' profiles
General secretary profile

From the general secretary May 2019

Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson reflects on a month of good news for the Union, with membership numbers increasing and several valuable joint-working initiatives underway

Nautilus International is ten years old in May 2019. So, my thoughts turn to that historic decision that our members supported to form the world’s first truly trans-boundary trade union for maritime professionals.

When we were first working on ways to bring UK and Dutch maritime professionals together we formed the Nautilus Federation as a mechanism to coordinate our work and demonstrate to members the value of that cross-border cooperation. Today that federation remains active in uniting likeminded trade unions in the shipping industry from across the globe. Twenty one unions now collaborate to provide support to their respective members.

In April the Nautilus Federation met to discuss our joint initiatives such as our mutual support of members facing potential criminalisation (known as JASON) and our Fair Treatment campaign which we hope will result in the launch of an app in the near future; and plans for a new survey on STCW to provide feedback on the anticipated review of that Convention which is due to begin in 2020.

Closer to home I also oversaw a meeting of the Council of Nautilus. The April meeting is always an important one for the Union as it is when we sign off the audited accounts and confirm revised budgets for the current financial year.

We also discussed the arrangements for the General Meeting and Rules General Meeting in October where members are invited to take part in setting the Union’s agenda for the next four years. It is a really important, and also very enjoyable, event in the governance of the Union so please do you utmost to attend. I hope to see as many of you there as possible.

The Council also received an update from our Organising department. Garry Elliott, head of organising, reported several organising successes in the windfarm and yacht sectors both new areas for Nautilus which are delivering membership growth. As a result, we ended 2018 with more members than we started it.

I am now looking forward to our next meeting of the Council in June where we will continue our preparations for the General Meeting and also welcome some new Council members who will have been recently elected.

In April I also I attended a meeting of the UK Branch Committee. A lively meeting not least because Brexit inevitably dominated much of the conversation. With the departure from the EU once again delayed, and this time potentially for six months, the effects of uncertainty are being felt across the industry. Companies are moving their ships away from the UK ship register and the issue of the validity of seafarer certificates once the UK leaves the EU still creates concern.

However, there is positive news coming out of the government as progress continues to be made on the Maritime 2050 vision. A substantial section of the strategy is dedicated to “People” and Nautilus will seek to ensure that the commitments made around seafarer training and employment are met.

Finally, I welcomed feedback from our Young Maritime Professionals on their recent trip to Rotterdam and Brussels as part of the European Transport Workers’ Federation Fair Transport campaign. I really enjoyed the video diary made by YMP chair Sam Belfitt as she catalogued the YMP’s exploits travelling by road, sea and rail transport to meet up with hundreds of other transport workers to march against the rise of social dumping in the European transport sector.

Fair Transport is the least we should expect in Europe and as we leave the EU we need to acknowledge that we are not leaving Europe. We will need to re-double our efforts to work closely with our brothers and sisters in Europe in defence of members living, working conditions and their health and safety at work.


From the general secretary April 2019

Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson considers the importance of saving for retirement – and explains how the Union is working to ensure members have the best possible pension…

With the financial year drawing to an end at work, my thoughts often turn in April to personal financial planning and pensions. Saving for retirement is too often our lowest priority, but for most of us - unless we are banking on winning the lottery - it should be one of our greatest concerns.

As we are all living longer, we need to think more carefully about retirement planning, and it's never too early to start. Research suggests that 12% to 20% of our earnings need to be saved each year to achieve a decent income in retirement.

At Nautilus we work in many ways to ensure that all our members have access to a decent pension. We participate in industry pension schemes and continuously press employers to provide good quality pensions for members. But that job isn't helped by employers who have no interest in securing a decent retirement for their seafarers, or by governments who seem intent on undermining the pension rights of their citizens.

In the Netherlands, we joined the country-wide FNV Pension Action Day on 18 March, calling for a fair pension for everyone at a time when the Dutch government is seeking to cut pension costs. We believe that in a country like the Netherlands, everyone should be able to stop work at a reasonable time of life and be able to count on a decent income.

One of the key issues in NL is the rapidly increasing state pension age and the financial penalty for 'early' retirement (a particularly relevant issue for seafarers and those working in inland waterways, as these are tough jobs where you can't continue into old age). We are now joining the call for a freeze on the state pension age.

In the UK, the age at which we receive our state pension has also risen. For those born in the 1960s like me, it is now 67, and will rise further for those born more recently. The amount received from the state is not enough for most people to survive on, and pension poverty has been rising as a result. It is crucial, therefore, to save for retirement and do it as soon as you can.

This is not a new problem, and it is why my forefathers in the Union campaigned tirelessly for an industry-wide pension scheme in the UK. In 1938, they succeeded - and the MNOPF defined benefit scheme was born. It served seafarers well for many years but eventually had to be closed due to the escalating costs of past and ongoing liabilities. Our priority had to be to secure the benefits of those in the scheme for their past service and to ensure that existing members’ benefits were not undermined.

To replace the MNOPF, we sought to ensure a cost-effective and viable way forward to protect retirement saving for maritime professionals. A new industry scheme, the Ensign Retirement Plan, was thus created. It remains the only not-for-profit maritime pension scheme - run in partnership by the Union and the industry.

A survey conducted by Ensign last year found a 'significant disconnect' between the importance attached to retirement saving by maritime employers and by their staff. While more than half of employers surveyed said pensions 'were not a very or only moderately important' part of their overall employee benefit package, a similar survey of maritime professionals found that more than four in five regarded pensions as 'very important'.

It is vital that the maritime industry supports retirement saving for its employees. We can see that governments are constantly seeking to erode state pensions, and it becomes ever more important to ensure that our members can secure a decent income in retirement. It will be a stain on all of us if we fail.

meet the team: Nautilus officials' profiles
General secretary profile

From the general secretary March 2019

Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson reflects on the dismaying news from Maersk and other major maritime employers leaving the UK…

February’s big story was the announcement that Maersk was ending its relationship with the UK. No more British officer trainees and no jobs for British junior officers upon completion of their training. A very sad reflection on the current state of affairs.

Having been one of the first to join the UK tonnage tax when it was launched in 2000, Maersk had at one point expanded to become the single biggest UK flag operator – and it trained large numbers of British cadets as a result.

Maersk was also a significant operator and employer in the Netherlands, having acquired P&O Nedlloyd in 2005. However, it soon started offering inducements for Dutch seafarers to leave. Shore-based operations were reduced to almost nothing, and Dutch officers were offered promotion only upon signing Danish contracts. It is only a matter of time before Maersk exits the Netherlands altogether.

The significance of this latest Maersk announcement cannot be underestimated. Back in 2008, Maersk approached Nautilus about the need for more government support to address the rising costs of training cadets and the gap between UK employment costs and manning models from southeast Asia. The company was very clear that without government intervention it would be forced to look elsewhere.

Galvanised by these stark warnings from the world’s biggest shipowner, we agreed to work together to develop a joint industry offer to the UK government. We hoped this would lead to more training and job security for our members in return for more government support for the shipping industry. This led to a positive meeting with the then prime minister, Gordon Brown.

Unfortunately, a general election and change of government followed in early 2010. But we didn’t give up, and together as an industry we worked hard to make the economic case for more support for jobs and training. Ten years on from that initial Maersk contact we finally secured an extra £15m for SMarT. However, in the meantime, a decade of perceived government inaction doubtless impacted on Maersk’s future strategy, and its allegiances now lie elsewhere – notably in Denmark and India.

From the general secretary February 2019

At a difficult time in UK politics, Nautilus general secretary MARK DICKINSON takes stock of the Brexit situation and considers how it could affect seafarers…

As the February 2019 Telegraph went to press, the British government had just recorded the biggest ever defeat on the floor of the House of Commons, with 432 (out of 650) MPs voting down the proposed withdrawal agreement negotiated with the EU.

However, the government then survived a vote of no confidence, meaning that an early general election to change the status quo is unlikely.

This means, with the UK's departure from the European Union now less than two months away, the way forward is less clear than ever before. Will we leave the EU with a deal? What will the deal be? Will we leave with no deal? Or will we even leave the EU at all?

At the time of the original in/out referendum, the Council of Nautilus debated the issue of Brexit and decided that, in the interests of maritime professionals, remaining was the best option. Since then we have watched as the process of leaving the EU has unfolded and the unimaginably complex unravelling of a 45-year relationship has been exposed.

Despite the talk of opportunities for shipping following Brexit, including the possibility of creating more jobs for British workers, the government has consistently taken decisions which are hard for our community to fathom.

In May last year, the government granted a fresh waiver to windfarm vessel operators, enabling them to continue recruiting from outside the EU. It must be said, though, that the government does at least believe that the National Minimum Wage (NMW) applies to these workers and has pledged to clarify in law that all seafarers on any ship working in UK waters will be protected by the NMW.

In terms of future immigration policy, it remains to be seen if the post-Brexit proposal only to recruit EU workers into jobs paying over £30,000 a year will benefit British MN officers, who typically will be earning above that level.

It also came as something of a shock last month when the government was able to find £103million for three companies (one French, one Danish and one UK start-up) to provide additional capacity on several short-sea routes after Brexit. That's hard to take when we campaigned for a decade just to get £15m more for the training of British seafarers under the SMarT scheme. And these generous contracts came – as sadly is usual in the UK – with no requirement to provide jobs for British seafarers.

At the time of the referendum, the British union federation TUC published a report detailing those UK workers' rights underpinned by EU rules which would be under threat due to Brexit. The TUC set a 'Brexit test' – three objectives which must be included in any final deal in order for it to be supported by the trade union movement. These were:

  • workers' rights must be protected and enforceable now and into the future
  • there must be tariff-free, barrier free, frictionless trade in goods and services with the rest of Europe
  • there must be no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland or more restrictions between Gibraltar and Spain

Following the publication of the government's proposed withdrawal agreement, the TUC stated the proposals did not meet these tests and called for the deal to be rejected. The TUC has also called for an extension to Article 50 to allow negotiations to continue and remove the chances of a 'no deal' Brexit.

The situation will hopefully become clearer in the weeks ahead and it does look increasingly likely that there will be a second referendum on a Brexit deal, although what that deal will look like, or what the question on the ballot will be, remain areas of lively debate. The Council of Nautilus will need to consider these issues in due course.

Whatever the outcome, Nautilus will continue to call on all those involved to agree an outcome which protects the interests of our maritime professionals.

From the general secretary January 2019

With the Nautilus General Meeting on the horizon in 2019, Nautilus general secretary MARK DICKINSON reflects on what can be achieved through national and international cooperation…

As the year 2018 came to a close, my attention was focused on some big ticket issues.

Firstly, representing the UK, I attended a meeting of the Executive Committee of the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF). This body meets twice a year, usually in Brussels, to oversee the work of the federation on behalf of transport workers in Europe (and not just the EU). Brexit featured on the agenda, and it was very touching when the ETF president poignantly pointed out that Britain was leaving the EU and not the ETF!

Many transport sectors – not just maritime – are facing a future of huge change, with issues like automation, digitalisation, and social and environmental pressures all impacting on traditional union organising. As the ETF prepares for those challenges and seizes those opportunities, it has agreed to hold an extraordinary conference in March 2019 which will launch a new strategy called Moving Europe Forward – a focus on policy for the longer-term future of transport workers in Europe. A future in which we are all better connected across sectors, particularly when campaigning and building union power to secure better outcomes for our members.

The ETF conference will coincide with the culmination of the ETF Fair Transport campaign, which will culminate in a rally in Brussels on 27 March 2019. For Nautilus this campaign has enabled us to gain a wider profile for our work in, for example, Switzerland to highlight the exploitation of hotel and catering staff working in the river cruise sector; in the UK to highlight social dumping in the ferry industry, particularly in the Irish Sea; and in the Netherlands the plight of members at Borr/Paragon, who were being made redundant without a decent social package.

Our campaigning was highlighted in the Nautilus motion at the 150th TUC Congress in September when we secured unanimous support for the Fair Shipping Campaign as part of the wider ETF Fair Transport initiative.

Another big policy initiative I’ve been involved in over the last few weeks is the Unions 21 Commission on Collective Voice. The commission, led by Baroness Prosser, is taking evidence on the role of collective bargaining and how it can be used to secure better outcomes for employees in the changing world of work.

As the Council of Nautilus is also debating the challenges and opportunities we face as a Union, this commission is very timely. We have heard from a Swedish white collar union with similar industry and member demographics (and with similar membership density) on how they have identified the need to change from being ‘helpers in distress’ to ‘improvers’. This reflects the changing needs of young workers – and has, I believe, important implications for Nautilus as we seek to remain relevant to the young maritime professionals of the future and help them in their careers.

Finally, 2019 is a General Meeting year. The theme – reflecting the nature of the world today – is Global Industry, Global Workforce, Global Union. Seems very appropriate as we turn and face the brave new world outside the EU. The meeting will be held in Rotterdam and will give members the opportunity to debate and approve the Union’s strategic priorities for the next four years. More details will be available soon, and I hope to see as many of you there as possible.

In the meantime, I hope you all had a very merry Christmas, whether you were at home or at work, and wish you a Happy New Year!

Insights 2018

Archives of regular monthly message from Nautilus general secretary, also published in the printed Telegraph on the Welcome page.

From the general secretary December 2018

Having recently returned from the ITF Congress, Nautilus general secretary MARK DICKINSON explains how the Union’s work with fellow labour organisations around the world benefits members…

A few weeks ago I was part of the Nautilus delegation at the 44th Congress of the International Transport Workers’ Federation. There were lots of interesting debates and we set the policy and work programme to guide the work of the ITF for the next five years around the theme of Building Union Power. You can read all about the key decisions that were taken as they relate to our members and our interventions in the December Telegraph.

The ITF and its work internationally on behalf of its affiliates is important and assists Nautilus in its mission to protect our members, but it can sometimes feel a long way from the everyday lives of those working at sea. I was not back from the ITF Congress for long before the reality of life at sea for too many seafarers was brought home to me once again. Our Nautilus/ITF inspector in NW England sent me details of a case he had been working on where seafarers were contracted on basic salaries as low as $235 per month. Even with overtime payments, some of those onboard were still only earning $500 per month. That’s under half the consolidated salary recommended in the ILO Maritime Labour Convention.

Despite not even paying their seafarers a decent wage – and forcing them to work very long hours that compromised the safety of everyone onboard – this unscrupulous company then had a list of deductions coming straight out of the crews’ pay.

Many had spent money on expensive satellite telephone cards, simply trying to keep in touch with their families while they were away.

All seafarers are protected by the minimum standards of the MLC. It is timely that this month I will be part of the ITF delegation attending the Joint Maritime Commission subcommittee on wages of seafarers, looking to agree a real-terms increase in this pay fl oor. However, for far too many workers these minimums become maximums. And while it is important that we achieve a decent increase under the ILO mechanism, which many other agreements are built on, we will never have a true level playing fi eld and fair pay at sea until all seafarers are able to continuously improve the terms and conditions of their employment through strong trade unionism.

Until the ILO minimum wage is enforced by flag states, with penalties for non-compliance, some shipping companies will continue to pay their seafarers these shockingly low rates, and this in turn will make it harder for the decent employers out there to compete and engage with trade unions to provide decent work for seafarers – wherever in the world they come.

For more information on the ILO discussions, please visit the dedicated website In the meantime, I and all other Nautilus personnel – including our ITF inspectors and our lay representatives working to improve terms and conditions within their own companies – will continue to work alongside the wider ITF family to ensure fair treatment and fair pay for all maritime professionals.

From the general secretary November 2018

Nautilus general secretary MARK DICKINSON looks back at a successful UK branch conference and Fair Treatment symposium, and considers what lies ahead for the Union and its members…

Last month the Council of Nautilus International met in Liverpool for one of its regular governance meetings. One of the main discussion points was my report on the ‘2030 Vision’, which is about responding to the changing nature of the industry, society and our need to adapt and organise in these new realities. I am determined that the Union will remain strong as we face the future as a global trade union in a global industry. I aim to be able to bring the conclusions of this debate to our members at next year’s General Meeting in Rotterdam in October.

The Council also bade a fond farewell to Nick Bramley, our international organiser and former senior national secretary from our Switzerland branch. Nick has been representing inland waterways and other maritime and shipping professionals in Switzerland for nearly four decades, and was instrumental in bringing them into Nautilus International membership in 2011.Alongside the Council meeting, the UK branch held its annual conference and industry symposium. In a change from our usual format, the branch activities report was presented by several staff members who work behind the scenes and don’t usually get to step into the limelight.

They did a fantastic job and did the Union proud. In the afternoon, the symposium focused on our strategic campaign to highlight the increasing criminalisation of maritime professionals. An excellent panel of speakers presented some initial findings from a Nautilus survey of members,investigated some recent cases of unfair treatment and looked at what is currently being done to support and protect seafarers. It is sad to hear that so many of our members – 87% in our survey – still fear being criminalised, and we are working on new ways to support and protect them in future.

Also in October, I attended a meeting of the Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Maritime Transport where we were briefed by the European Commission about Brexit and its impact on seafarer certification. The European Commission stated that there are 22,000 holders of UK CoCs who could, in a no-deal Brexit scenario, face problems working on EU-Flagged vessels when their current endorsements expire. A briefing note is currently being prepared by our professional and technical department which gives members more information and advice, so please watch out for that. I’ve also written to the shipping minister and MCA to raise our concerns.

I also joined a new commission organised by Unions 21 to examine the collective voice in the workplace. This is an 18-month project exploring how the collective voice at work can play a positive role in the economy. The commission will gather evidence, encourage research and create a series of recommendations and examples for how collective voice can be re-imagined in an ever-changing economy.

Finally, last month I welcomed new research by Seafarers’ Rights International (SRI) on ‘Cabotage Laws of the World’. As part of our Jobs, Skills and the Future campaign, Nautilus has been urging governments to introduce cabotage laws to promote employment and training opportunities in their coastal trades and domestic maritime activity. The evidence from this research is that 80% of maritime states have some form of cabotage regulation to support local shipping industries, ensuring the retention of skilled maritime workers, promoting safety, and bolstering national security and resilience.

From the general secretary October 2018

Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson looks back at a productive TUC conference, and praises members whose protest actions brought their employer back to the negotiating table…

Last month saw the annual conference of the UK Trades Union Congress – a very special gathering this year, with the TUC celebrating its 150th anniversary in Manchester.

Nautilus submitted two motions to the TUC: one in which we joined with the RMT union to highlight the appalling working conditions that too many seafarers suffer; and the second on the Fair Transport campaign being promoted by the European Transport Workers' Federation. This seeks to address the scourge of social dumping in Europe, in which employers are able to exploit migrant labour and undermine the employment of European seafarers.

Raising these issues at Congress ensures the support of all TUC-affiliated unions and means that we have the backing of over 5.6m workers when we call on government and industry to address such employment practices.

We also used the event to highlight the importance of seafarers and the maritime industry, running a stall where we showed some of the everyday items that are brought to us by sea. And we deployed virtual reality to show visitors what life at sea is like, by transporting them to the bridge of an offshore support vessel in the North Sea.

The TUC, like the Dutch and Swiss union federations FNV and SGB, offers fringe meetings at its conference outside the formal proceedings, and I attended one which focused on the changing role of digital technology in trade unions.

I take these issues very seriously and have already initiated a discussion about what the Union, and the maritime industry, might look like in 20 years' time, to ensure that we remain relevant, fit for purpose and resolutely focused on our members' needs. Having apps – like the Telegraph app which you may be using to read this – is just the start of our digital journey, and we are investigating the potential demands of the next generation of maritime professionals.

I am also about to be involved in another project looking at the future of collective bargaining: the Collective Voice Commission, which was set up by Unions 21, a network of smaller unions. Our experience developing international agreements, especially the agreement with Shell International Shipping Services which covers 49 nationalities, will help other unions in the UK to plan for a more globalised workforce and global workplaces.

The strength of trade union membership was also brought home this month by the success of protests undertaken by members at Paragon Offshore Drilling. The members, some of whom had been with their employer for over 20 years, were facing the loss of their jobs after their employer was taken over, and they were being offered very poor redundancy terms.

The Union did not take this lying down and organised protests in Beverwijk, IJmuiden, Oslo, Aberdeen and The Hague, along with a petition of all employees. The members all stood firm and told their employers that they must respect their workers by retaining as many staff as possible and putting decent redundancy packages in place for those for whom they could not keep on.

I am delighted that, because of this action, the employers listened, and talks are now underway to save jobs and improve redundancy terms. Action like this shows that when we stand strong and we stand together we can make a difference. I would like to place on record my thanks to every member who took part.

From the general secretary September 2018

Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson warns that seafarers are particularly exposed to the uncertain consequences of Brexit…

Two years on from the Brexit referendum, and less than a year away from the exit point, we are finally starting to see what the impact of the decision to the leave the European Union may be. Whichever side of the divisive Brexit debate you stand on, trade is at the heart of it. And for maritime professionals, working in an industry that is at the heart of trade, the implications are immense.

Members may recall the May 2016 Telegraph report on the extensive debate by the Council of Nautilus International on the UK’s membership of the EU. This determined that, in the interests of the maritime professionals we represent and the industry in which they work, the UK would be better off remaining.

In the referendum's aftermath, Nautilus promised members that it would do everything in its power to protect their jobs, their pay and conditions, and their rights at work in the subsequent uncertain financial, industrial and regulatory environment.

We have worked with government, shipowners, other unions and other organisations to meet the challenges of Brexit and make the most of the opportunities it may offer. Our strategic campaigns focus on those objectives and have made significant achievements. The SMarT Plus measures to improve support for seafarer training and employment, the ongoing review of the system for issuing Certificates of Equivalent Competency, and the moves towards a review of the tonnage tax scheme and the application of National Minimum Wage in UK waters are all major milestones on the way to protecting and regenerating the pool of British seafarers.

But these positives are at risk of being undermined by a shambolic Brexit. We still have no clarity on issues such as the long-term recognition of UK seafarers' certificates within Europe, how our maritime policies or social and employment rights will be guaranteed outside the EU, or whether the UK's proposals for continued 'frictionless trade' will avert the threat of port congestion caused by customs and other frontier checks.

The potential scenarios were recently described by the president of the UK Chamber of Shipping as an 'absolute disaster' for shipping. The industry is so concerned that Maritime UK has called for an extension to Article 50 to allow more time for the negotiations.

At the same time, the world is facing the growing threat of trade wars which could result in new tariffs and barriers – leading the OECD to warn that global living standards could be thrown back to 1990 levels over the next 40 years. Put simply, less trade means fewer jobs – and seafarers, as ever, will be in the frontline.

In this volatile political and economic climate, we are facing what some have described as a 'pointless Brexit' – an outcome which will satisfy neither leavers nor remainers. Consequently, a growing number of trade unions want to see people being given the opportunity to have the final say on what eventually emerges from the maelstrom. Whatever side of the fence you came down on at the referendum, the last two years have certainly raised important questions about the effects of Brexit. No one voted to be worse off.

Maritime professionals are more exposed than many workers to these repercussions and as we continue to fight for their future, we need to provide a strong and influential voice on their behalf. I remain committed to doing that, to make sure that 'your jobs, your skills and your futures' remain at the heart of everything we do.

From the general secretary August 2018

Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson looks back at two months of Union campaigning, protesting, debating, organising and pledging for progress…

Every year, Seafarers Awareness Week in the UK and the International Day of the Seafarer take place in June. They provide an excellent opportunity to make the public aware of how much they depend on the world’s seafarers and their vital role in delivering 90% of global trade – not to mention the work of the leisure and transport sectors.

Our members, of course, know the value of their industry, and Day of the Seafarer allows us to spread the word of what they do every day. This year Nautilus celebrated the occasion with a number of events and activities.

In the UK, the Union ran a highly successful advertising campaign informing members of the public that the petrol they fill their cars with was brought to them by seafarers. The adverts are a reminder of the impact that seafarers have on their everyday lives.

In the Netherlands a number of members joined a protest at the port of Ijmuiden against Borr Drilling Limited, the new owner of Paragon. Borr Drilling wants to close the former Paragon Offshore office in Beverwijk, putting more than 70 jobs at risk.

Another event of interest this summer was the annual Switzerland branch conference and symposium focusing on organising in the river cruise sector. The event attracted a good crosssection of the industry, and I was delighted to be able to draw attention to the problematic working conditions which exist in river cruising, and also to the wealth of support the Union can offer this rapidly expanding sector. It was interesting to hear my fellow speaker Harald Ludwig talking about the realities of being a skipper in the river cruise sector. A lively discussion followed with representatives of companies and authorities. This is a sector that you will be reading much more about as we ramp up our organising activities.

Our Netherlands branch has also held its 2018 conference and symposium in the last few weeks, this time with a focus on the offshore wind sector – another growth sector for us. At this symposium I emphasised the importance of our strategic campaigning on jobs, skills and the future and related some of our experiences from the UK wind energy sector. I shared the platform with my colleague Marcel van den Broek, who argued above all for 'employment that is just as sustainable as the energy it generates'.

Away from industrial work, there is another growth area for the Union that we are working on at the moment, and that is the recruitment of women into the profession. In July, the Union took part in two meetings focused on the recruitment of women into the maritime industry. Nautilus has signed a pledge to support the recruitment of women and attended an event organised by the European Transport Workers' Federation where we shared our female members' experiences on barriers to entry into the profession. I hope to see this work continue over the year to come.

From the general secretary July 2018

Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson reports on developments in UK maritime policy and considers how international cooperation can help Union members…

One of the important lessons I learned during my years at sea was to expect the unexpected, and this month the unexpected came from the unlikely direction of the Holy See.

I was due to lead a delegation from the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) at the Joint Maritime Commission – where representatives from seafarers' trade unions and ship owners meet to agree the minimum wage for seafarers under the auspices of the International Labour Organisation. Unfortunately, the Pope agreed a visit at the exact time the talks were due to take place, which meant that all the surrounding offices would be closed. The talks have been rescheduled for November, and Nautilus International and the ITF will continue campaigning for a real and significant pay rise for some of the world's lowestpaid seafarers in the lead-up to the new meeting. If you haven't already, please visit and sign up to support Fair Pay at Sea. The campaign is also on twitter @FairPayAtSea – please follow and retweet.

I've been working on a submission to the UK government's latest initiative on the future of the maritime industry: Maritime 2050. The policy programme will develop a maritime strategy able to make the most of future opportunities, and will identify the challenges and opportunities available in the fields of maritime technology, trade, infrastructure, environment, people and security/resilience.

My submission detailed the strengths and weaknesses of the UK maritime sector and urged the government to develop radical and innovative policies to ensure that opportunities can be properly exploited for the benefit of seafarers as well as companies.

I also highlighted that there were still many action points outstanding from the Maritime Growth Study, and that this new longer-term review should not be used as an excuse to push the conclusions of that study into the long grass.

We also responded to the House of Commons transport committee Freight and Brexit inquiry, highlighting our concerns that the potential impacts of Brexit upon seafarers have not been properly assessed. I believe that clarity is required from the government about the future shape of the single market and customs union before these opportunities can be properly shaped and acted on.

This month I also attended meetings of the ITF and the European Transport Workers' Federation (ETF). At the ETF we are supporting a new pan-European campaign to stop social dumping. The Fair Transport campaign will see action being taken across Europe to highlight that all transport workers must be paid a fair wage from the country they are working in, not the country of their origin. This seeks to ensure a level playing field for all workers and head off social dumping. This is a very real concern for our members in the shipping industry.

The Nautilus Federation also met last month. Discussions centred around the Joint Assistance & Support Network that we have established with fellow maritime unions to safeguard members' rights to fair treatment in the event of a maritime incident. I am pleased with the way this has developed over the past two years. The scheme ensures that reciprocal advice and support can be provided to union members if they are involved in an incident within a port, territory, territorial waters or onboard a vessel flagged in one of the countries covered by the agreement.

Assistance available through JASON includes advice on choosing a local expert lawyer and guidance on local investigation and legal procedures. Support may also involve access to translation services and consular services.

The member unions of the Nautilus Federation will also be working together in the coming months on a Fair Treatment and Criminalisation campaign.

From the general secretary June 2018

Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson reports on work to improve global standards for seafarers and logs on to the Union's newly improved website…

At the end of April, I attended the International Labour Organisation Special Tripartite Committee (STC) to discuss amendments to the Maritime Labour Convention. I am pleased that we were able to come to an agreement on seafarers' pay, should they be held hostage as a result of piracy or armed robbery attacks on their ships. The MLC will now include a provision that seafarers' wages and other contractual entitlements will continue to be paid during the entire period of captivity.

The MLC was always intended to be improved over time, and I hope that future meetings of the STC will address other equally important issues, such as paid leave, sickness, social security protection and pensions.

It is a sad fact that too many seafarers have to rely on these minimum standards. Most of our members are employed on conditions well above these international minimum standards, but they do provide the platform from which our improved terms and conditions are set.

In June, I will be leading a delegation of ITF seafarers at the Joint Maritime Commission SubCommittee on Wages of Seafarers, an ILO standing body which sets the minimum basic wage for an able seafarer.

Closer to home, in May we launched our brandnew website. It has been many months in the making, but I am delighted with the clean fresh look and responsive design of the site.

The new site offers something for all members, and in recognition of our three branches the site is fully translated into English, Dutch and German, so members of each branch can see what the Union is doing locally and internationally.

For our members at sea the site can operate on low bandwidth and adapts to display perfectly on any device.

The website is the next step in being ever more responsive to needs of our members. Along with existing services such as Nautilus 24/7, and deals and discounts, the new website provides members with the ability to view and amend their membership details. It will host more news as it happens and provide more ways to become active in our campaign work.

I am also excited about the options our new website platform will open up in the future. As the site develops, members will be able to personalise their pages to see more of the news they are most interested in and the campaigns they wish to hear more about.

And finally, a date for your calendar – in 2019 Nautilus will hold its four-yearly General Meeting. It will take place from 8 to 10 October in Rotterdam, with the theme of 'Global Industry, Global Workforce, Global Union' to reflect the reality of our industry and the Union's place within it.

From the general secretary May 2018

Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson takes a look at the Union's finances, and reports on campaigning and negotiating work in the Netherlands, UK and Switzerland…

For many people, April marks the start of a new financial year, where we take the opportunity to reflect on our spending from the past year and tweak budgets set for the year ahead.

This is also true for Nautilus; our year-end financial accounts are busy being prepared, and my colleagues and I in the senior team are adjusting budget projections to ensure that we are able to offer the best service possible at an affordable cost to members. We have been focused on the needs of maritime professionals for over 160 years, and I want to make sure we are around for 160 more!

I spoke about the Council's oversight of the Union's finances at a recent meeting of our National Committee in the Netherlands. Whilst there is no immediate cause for alarm, we are all keenly aware that we have a large number of members approaching retirement over the next five to 10 years. The growth in new entrants to the industry, and subsequently the Union, is not sufficient to replace those retiring. Therefore, we are looking at what needs to be done today, in order to safeguard the future and plan ahead. This will include a review of how we utilise technology to reduce costs for travel and meetings, and how we can structure the Union to maximise our people-skills and resources.

At the NL National Committee meeting I was also updated on developments for members employed in the Dutch dredging sector, some of whom are experiencing poor employment practices, including blacklisting. We will do everything we can to support members affected by such underhand tactics.

As well as negotiating directly with employers to protect our members' terms and conditions, we continue to lobby parliamentary representatives in the Netherlands and the UK on employment and maritime issues.

In the Netherlands, a petition was recently presented to parliament on the procedures for tendering for government infrastructure projects. Nautilus highlighted that government procedures result in too many of our highly-skilled members losing out on jobs to lower paid workers from other countries. It’s a familiar experience to Nautilus members across the board and, of course, it's behind our call for a review of the UK system of issuing Certificates of Equivalent Competency.

In the UK, I met shipping minister Nusrat Ghani for the first time. During our hour-long meeting we discussed some of the issues still outstanding on our Charter for Jobs and specifically the need to strengthen national minimum wage legislation and review the tonnage tax to ensure that it drives fleet and maritime skills growth. It was a very positive first meeting, and the minister appears to have developed a passion for the industry in the short time she has been involved. I look forward to working closely with her in the future.

In Switzerland our focus is again returning to the organising challenges facing the river cruise sector, and I held discussions internally about additional capacity to address this.

From the general secretary April 2018

Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson urges members to look at the breadth of good work the Union is doing and get more closely involved if they want to see a change in emphasis…

Our members are our greatest asset and our severest critics. They do a tough job and expect the best from Nautilus. Yet in these times of instant (and often fake) news, comment and opinion – some of it ill-informed or misplaced – it sometimes feels as if one's reputation is only as good as the last Tweet or Facebook post.

So, when a concerned member drew my attention to a social media post last month suggesting Nautilus had failed to stop the decline of the Red Ensign – or to prevent the loss of British jobs – I got quite upset. Fortunately, several members rallied to the cause to put their colleagues straight and directed them to the actual cause of the decline of our maritime skills base.

You do need a thick skin in this business, but I still find unjustified criticism of Nautilus hard to take. Although we were created in our current form in 2009, we've had the wellbeing of Dutch, British and Swiss maritime and shipping professionals at our heart for more than 160 years. Nautilus is run by a professional team of very dedicated individuals, many of whom put an extraordinary amount of effort into their work for members. It's easy to blame the Union for problems that have affected the global shipping industry, but it would be far worse without our efforts.

Take the recent case of the members employed on Isle of Man-registered superyacht Indian Empress. Using the financial security provisions of the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), Nautilus secured the wages of the crew and arrested the vessel in Malta to obtain the remaining entitlements of the members onboard. That's just one example of where we deliver for members on a daily basis.

Members should also reflect on whether initiatives such as the tonnage tax and related fiscal support (including for training and employment) in Switzerland, the Netherlands and the UK would exist without our campaigning and lobbying work – often bringing shipowner associations along with us in support of a cause.

Then there are the countless industrial and legal cases where our individual and collective support for members has made a massive difference. Last year alone, Nautilus recovered well over £1m in compensation for members injured at work or owed wages.

On the international stage, Nautilus was one of the prime architects of the MLC – an international mechanism adopted in 2006 that is making a huge difference to the lives of seafarers throughout the world. And with our colleagues in the Nautilus Federation we have created a remarkable joint assistance and support network to provide practical help to members facing criminalisation.

None of this should be interpreted as Nautilus being complacent. We repeatedly seek ways of improving our services (such as the introduction of the Nautilus 24/7 helpline) and we survey members on a regular basis.

Ultimately, however, the Union is what its members make it. We are a member-led democratic organisation – so we invite you to get involved (heads-up, the General Meeting is coming in 2019, as are elections to the Council). If there is something you think we should be doing, tell us – but for sake of our collective sanity, please keep it constructive!

From the general secretary March 2018

Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson reflects on a month that saw a significant victory for the Union’s Charter for Jobs campaign…

There was much to be pleased about in February, and it started with an announcement that the UK government has finally agreed to adopt the industry's SMarT Plus proposals – a move which not only doubles funding for the scheme but will also help cadets to get post-qualification employment to progress to higher certificates.

Nautilus and the Chamber of Shipping have been campaigning together for the past two years on these new proposals, and they should make a big difference to those starting out in the industry. In her announcement to Parliament, the new UK shipping minister Nusrat Ghani congratulated the work of Nautilus and the Chamber in bringing the industry together on the scheme.

The delivery of SMarT Plus is a huge victory for our Charter for Jobs campaign, and now the real work begins to ensure that the industry makes good on its promise to deliver more training and jobs.

The week after this announcement, we attended the Chamber's annual dinner and invited journalists from maritime trade press and national news agencies to join us to hear about what the year ahead holds for the UK maritime industry and the Union.

The chair of the Council of Nautilus, Ulrich Jurgens, and Council member Ross Cleland joined me and other Union staff to describe to journalists the reality of work at sea and explain how our campaigns for better connectivity onboard and full implementation of the other Charter demands would improve seafarers' lives.

Discussing the role of seafarers with journalists in this way is vital to securing coverage of the work of maritime professionals and the Union, which in turn helps Nautilus achieve the changes we are campaigning for. We have already seen an increase in media coverage in the last two years, and we hope this will increase further in the coming months.

Nautilus has also improved its working relationship with the UK Chamber of Shipping, and we will continue to work together where our objectives are aligned. Much of this closer relationship was established thanks to Chamber CEO Guy Platten. He has recently been appointed as the next secretary general of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and I look forward to working closely with him in this new role.

Nautilus members were invited to become part of another upbeat news story in February by joining in with Heart Unions Week. I was delighted to see so many union members showing their love for our work and their backing for the thousands of activists who give up their spare time to help other members. These lay representatives are particularly important at Nautilus, and I would like to thank each and every one of them for the support they provide to their fellow members.

Elsewhere this month, I attended a meeting of the ITF and ICS to prepare for future international policymaking forums, including talks at the ILO Special Tripartite Committee in April, when amendments to the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC) will be discussed. In June, I will be the lead spokesperson at the Joint Maritime Commission Sub-Committee on the minimum basic wage for an able seafarer. We also discussed other possible amendments to the MLC, including abandonment and financial security.

Finally, I attended a meeting of the Maritime UK Board in February. The Union's participation in this group highlights a success for another of our Charter points, which called for one organisation to bring trade unions, government and industry together and develop a national maritime strategy.

Because of its expansion, Maritime UK undertook a governance review, and I am pleased that the Union will be a national member and have a place on the operational committee. The Union will continue to be a strong part of this group, ensuring that the views of maritime professionals are heard.

From the general secretary February 2018

Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson considers the impact of the UK government's cabinet reshuffle, welcomes international cooperation at Shell and looks forward to closer working with the Croatian union SPH…

Thank you to every member who gave their views on the new-look Telegraph which we launched last month. I am pleased that most of them were positive, and members understand and have embraced the reasons for the changes. There will always be teething problems with this type of exercise and we hope to have ironed out most of the issues that were brought to our attention with the first edition. Please continue to send in your thoughts and feedback – this is the magazine of your Union and your industry, so it must reflect the issues and information you want to read about.

The start of a new year is always a good time for a refresh and a change, and in the UK, the prime minister took the opportunity to bring about some changes to her government.

We were sorry to lose shipping minister John Hayes, who represented the sector in three spells from July 2014. I have had many meetings with Mr Hayes, and he seemed to understand and have a passion for the sector. Unusually for a politician, he was willing to have his mind changed by sensible argument, and one of his last acts as minister was to agree to call for a review of the system for issuing Certificates of Equivalent Competency. This was something we have been calling for since the launch of our Charter for Jobs at the UK branch conference in October 2016, but which Mr Hayes initially didn't feel was necessary. Thanks to the persistence of our members, who contacted their MPs in droves to explain the realities of their work, Mr Hayes changed his mind and agreed to the review.

In the reshuffle, the Department for Transport gained two new MPs – Jo Johnson and Nusrat Ghani – with the latter being confirmed as the new shipping minister. We have welcomed her into the post and have sought an early meeting. With just over one year to go until the UK leaves the European Union, there has never been a more important time for the UK and European maritime sector.

Further afield, I spent some time abroad meeting representatives from Shell International Shipping Services. In 2017 Nautilus International and other Nautilus Federation members were among the unions who signed a 'milestone' collective agreement covering the terms, conditions and salary scales for all officers serving with Shell Ship Management.

This agreement represents the truly international nature of our members' work, and I hope to be able to replicate it with more employers in the future to provide job security and good standards of employment for even more members. I also had the pleasure of welcoming Neven Melvan, general secretary of the Seafarers' Union of Croatia (SPH) to the Nautilus International Council meeting held in Rotterdam at the end of December. Nautilus and SPH are currently investigating ways of working more closely together.

From the general secretary January 2018

Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson explains the changes to the Telegraph – and the way in which the Union will be bringing members more news and analysis about the maritime industry…

Welcome to the your new-look Telegraph — a revamp which represents the first stage of a series of initiatives being taken by Nautilus in response to members' requests for a bigger, better and faster communications service.

I'm proud of our award-winning membership communications. Nautilus provides a wealth of information and analysis about the industry in which we work — but we can never stand still or rest on our laurels.

As the current drive towards autonomous ships demonstrates, we live in a world in which the pace of change is accelerating all the time, driven by technological advances that would not have been thought possible a generation ago.

These changes are transforming the way in which everyone communicates and Nautilus has a clear strategy to adapt our services to members to match these developments.

Despite the connectivity limitations suffered by many too seafarers — which we have highlighted in our Crew Communications report — it's clear that digital delivery is increasingly the way in which members are looking for news and information.

In line with the Union's strategic plan, endorsed by Nautilus Council, we have therefore begun a programme to provide you with an enhanced communications service which keeps the best of what we can offer in print whilst taking advantage of the new opportunities offered by electronic publishing — bringing the news to you as it happens, and enabling you to access it wherever and whenever you want.

We know you enjoy the Telegraph, and this new magazine format retains many of the popular features and regular items that you will be familiar with. But in this fast-moving world, we need to provide news in a more immediate and dynamic manner — and so, over the next few months, you will see the Nautilus website being relaunched to give you that service.

In its new magazine format, the Telegraph will provide readers with a summary of top news stories over the past month, together with indepth analysis and features on the industry in which we work. And, very soon, the new website will be bringing you all the breaking news, as and when it comes, as well as offering you easier electronic access to the Telegraph.

Over the years, the Union's communications team has picked up many awards for their work on the Telegraph and the website. With these changes, Nautilus is determined to continue delivering an unrivalled service to members — and one with harnesses the benefi ts that digital technology can bring.

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