I shared with you on 30 March our plan for new seafarer protections, following the appalling actions of P&O Ferries in dismissing nearly 800 workers without notice or consultation.
I am pleased to update you that we have opened a consultation on our Harbours (Seafarers' Remuneration) Bill (as provisionally titled) to enshrine the first of our commitments to seafarers: a new law to make access to UK ports, for vessels calling frequently on scheduled services, conditional on them paying their seafarers at least the equivalent to the UK’s national minimum wage when in UK internal and territorial waters.
This Bill forms part of the Government’s legislative programme for the 2022-23 session of Parliament. Whilst the Bill is urgent and high priority, it is only right that this time be taken to enter a meaningful, formal consultation process upon it with our broad and diverse maritime sector.
Conducting an open, transparent and published consultation will ensure all stakeholders can contribute their expertise to the formation of a Bill that truly enshrines the protections and rights that our seafarers deserve.
Our consultation seeks views on the scope of services and vessels to which national minimum wage equivalent requirements should apply, the compliance process to ensure these requirements are met, and the likely impact of the legislative change.
Whilst these powers will only apply to vessels whilst in UK waters, the UK shares a common objective with many international partners of ensuring seafarers receive fair wages, employment protections and welfare.
That’s why I have written to counterparts in six initial European countries, to explore the creation of bilateral wage corridors whereby seafarers are paid a minimum wage for key ferry routes. We intend to work with these six countries and other international partners to improve the long-term working conditions of seafarers across the world.
You shared my shock and anger when P&O Ferries’ CEO, Peter Hebblethwaite, stood before MPs and admitted to deliberately and knowingly breaking the law, and indicated that he would do the same again. The Insolvency Service has subsequently commenced formal civil and criminal investigations into the circumstances surrounding the redundancies.
Following the publication of our commitments to seafarers, I also made it clear that P&O Ferries will only resume services on each of its ships when the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has dealt with any safety concerns. We are determined to ensure vessels are safe. We will not apologise for the MCA’s detention of vessels if it ensures they are safe for passengers and crew once they resume service.
Where there are questions and concerns on implementation, the consultation will hear and engage with them. Maritime sector groups have publicly stated their determination to continue to work with us to address our shared challenges and we warmly welcome the ongoing support as we work to get this right for the benefit of all our loyal and hardworking seafarers.
The consultation is available online until 7th June at this address:
I have no doubt I will receive your continued support as we look to provide a secure future for our nation’s seafarers.
Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP
SECRETARY OF STATE FOR TRANSPORT