§ Sir David Price
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what arrangements he is making to use the power in the Merchant Shipping Act 1988 enabling him to provide financial assistance to shipping companies in respect of their crew relief costs.
§ Mr. Channon
I am placing in the Library a document entitled, "A Scheme for Department of Transport Assistance with Crew Relief Costs," which outlines the assistance scheme I am introducing under powers contained in the Merchant Shipping Act which received Royal Assent on 3 May.
I am fully aware that the shipping companies face a powerful financial incentive to employ cheaper Third-world crews. It is important for the continuing capacity of the United Kingdom merchant fleet to carry out its vital functions in time of emergency that sufficient United Kingdom ships are manned by British seafarers. The Merchant Shipping Act 1988 contains a provision which enables me to provide assistance towards the cost of flying out and repatriating crews of United Kingdom, Isle of Man or Channel Islands registered ships operating outside the limited European trading area (roughly from Bergen to Cadiz). From 1 September, ship operators will receive reimbursement of approximately half the cost of such journeys undertaken on or after 4 July by seafarers who are ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands or the Irish Republic.
The availability of assistance should make it more attractive to employ British crews, and I hope that shipping companies will take this into account in reaching decisions on the crewing and flagging of their vessels.