End of year bulletin: A reflection on 2020
As we head towards Christmas and the end of what has been a quite unprecedented year, I wanted to use my final bulletin of 2020 to reflect on the work the Chamber has done on behalf of our members.
Membership bodies are here to support in the good times and step up during the tough times. I am incredibly proud of the work the Chamber staff have done this year, supporting all our members through a complex and challenging time. They have risen to the task brilliantly from tireless policy support, to raising issues through the media to creating new online events. The whole team has pulled together and delivered for our members.
Back in March we implemented new ways of working to ensure we were representing our members’ interests to the best of our ability. We have taken advantage of the use of technology to meet our members more regularly, and our engagement with ministers and officials has also dramatically increased.
This greater engagement has resulted in some significant policy wins. At the beginning of the pandemic one of our key priorities was ensuring Britain had the food, medicines and goods we need, and the Chamber pressed the government to ensure ferry companies were supported. In April the UK government announced a multi-million pound support package for ferry operators and certain routes before almost any other financial support had been made for other industries. This initiative demonstrated the vital role our operators play in keeping Britain supplied and an acknowledgement of the strong case we made to the government. We have also worked hard with our membership to develop ferry guidance documents to ensure there are clear procedures and guidance in place for the safety of passengers.
The cruise industry too has borne a heavy price and the Chamber is right at the heart of planning with government and industry to get the sector restarted safely. We spent several months working with CLIA and the government on new guidelines which will enable the cruise sector to put measures in place and restart cruising as soon as conditions allow. We continue to lobby government relentlessly and we are hopeful the sector will be well placed to start the phased resumption plan in early 2021.
For the wider industry we lobbied successfully for the terms of Covid Business Interruption Loan Scheme to be broadened so more companies could benefit whilst also ensuring that seafarers and offshore workers were given the status and, where necessary, the exemptions to allow them to do their jobs safely.
We also wrote to the Chancellor and persuaded the Treasury to amend the rules around the Job Retention Scheme so it included more seafarers and maritime workers and we lobbied hard to get seafarers, offshore and other maritime workers excluded from the 14-day quarantine restrictions. We also worked incredibly quickly and lobbied the Scottish Government to amend regulations so Scottish seafarers no longer had to isolate for 14-days when returning to Scotland for more than 14 days of leave.
We know what a vital role seafarers played, and continue to play, in keeping world trade moving during the pandemic. In May we urged the UK Government to become the first in the world to officially adopt new measures to ensure crew changes could take place and to follow that up we wrote to the Prime Minister demanding the UK lead the world and organise an international Crew Change summit.
The government heeded our advice and in June the Shipping Minister convened a summit attended by representatives from the IMO, ICS and governments from around the world to discuss how countries can open up their borders to maritime workers so crew changes can take place. Although the crew change crisis is far from over, we are proud that we persuaded the UK Government to take a leading role in finding a solution to this critical issue.
We know that Covid-19 has had a detrimental impact on the wellbeing of seafarers and that is why in July the Merchant Navy Training Board and the Maritime Charities Group, a coalition of 10 major maritime charities, joined forces to publish a good practice guide to designing a training course for seafarers on mental health and wellbeing awareness.
The MNTB has also done some wonderful work supporting our cadets in training to ensure those affected by the Covid restrictions were able to continue their education despite the challenges. Our request for a 26-week extension to SMarT funding was agreed by Government and was welcomed by sponsoring companies as they pulled out all the stops to support their cadets in training.
Away from Covid we have continued to support our members on major issues such as Brexit, decarbonisation and safety. I know in 2021 Covid will still be a major issue and in the near term we are all waiting to see what will happen on 1 January as the Brexit transition period comes to an end. Our members have been preparing for this for four years now and are as prepared as they can be. We know there are complex new customs requirements and we should expect some delays and disruption as new processes and systems bed in, and operators get used to new ways of working. But we will do everything we can to ensure our members are fully supported as we enter 2021.
In February we will be hosting our first ever Virtual Conference titled ‘Pathways to 2030.’ It should be a wonderful event, with a host of leading industry experts looking at a range of issues from safety, to trade and the environment. We have some great sponsors onboard already including Northern Marine, Denholm Shipping and UK Ship Register as Gold Sponsors. Thanks to them for their support and we will be announcing more speakers and sponsors early in the new year. If you haven’t registered yet, you can do so here.
Despite the challenges this year we have signed up 15 new members, and added to our BROA membership, a real a sign of the strength of the Chamber and what we can offer. Thanks to all of those who have joined us:
- Waves Group
- Oil Spill Response
- A&P Group
- Hadley Shipping
- Teekay Gas Services
- Teekay Marine (Singapore) Pte Ltd
- Liverpool Seafarers Centre
- Ashley Shipping
- Stream Marine Training
- Conway Merchant Navy Trust
- Honourable Company of Master Mariners
- Floatel International
2020 has be a quite unprecedented year. I hope all of you reading this will get the time off you deserve over the Christmas period and get to see loved ones.
Happy Christmas from everyone at the Chamber and we look forward to seeing you in 2021.