A European shipowners' new maritime growth plan aiming to improve shipping's image, attract and retain European seafarers launched in Brussels this week, but was criticised as offering 'nothing new' by the European Transport Workers' Federation (ETF) - which has proposed its own plan.
The ETF says the European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA) Maritime Growth Plan, offers no solid commitments towards decent work, ensuring flag growth or improving the attractiveness of careers at sea. It describes the plan as 'hardly ambitious' and merely repackages existing work streams and ongoing EU funded projects developed via the EU Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee (SSDC) on Maritime Transport.
ETF SSDC spokesperson and Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson, said: 'The ECSA growth plan represents more "motherhood and apple pie". The problem is it offers no solid commitments towards achieving those aims. We know it won’t work because it has not worked in the past to arrest the decline of EU flags and EU skills.'
The ETF has proposed its own concept - a 'European Maritime Space for Socially Sustainable Shipping' with the support of academics and researchers. This will be presented on 5 November 2019 at the Fair Shipping Conference in Brussels.
The ETF says its proposals intend to 'remedy the lack of ambition of the ECSA Growth Plan and its inability to address the real problems facing the European seafaring workforce. It offers a legal framework for quality shipping and the establishment of a level playing field for both shipowners and seafarers based on a race to the top instead of a race to the bottom.'
The ESCA growth plan 'completely ducks the question of ensuring EU flag growth, preferring to talk only about the amount of world shipping that EU shipping companies control,' says the ETF. 'We believe this is not enough – the EU State Aid Guidelines for maritime transport specifically require growth in EU registered tonnage in return for state aid subsidies.'
Livia Spera, ETF General Secretary commented: 'The ECSA growth plan is all carrot and no stick. The time for state aid without guaranteed return is over. Taxpayers demand value for money, and as the ITF-OECD Report shows, we are not getting it.'
The ETF says the shipowners' plan offers only supply-side measures in an attempt to increase the quality and quantity of available seafarers but makes no promise to employ EU seafarers: 'Currently, not even half of the seafarers onboard EU owned ships are EU/EEA nationals, and in many countries such as the UK, Germany and France, the number of seafarers is falling.'
In a statement the ECSA’s spokesperson to the Social Dialogue Committee for Maritime Transport. Tim Springett said: 'We are strongly convinced this will provide the EU with the right course of action needed to ensure it delivers over the coming legislature on its goals of a more socially sustainable industry by enhancing the training, competitiveness and employment of EU seafarers.'