Shipping has no place in the manifestos issued this week by the five main political parties contesting the UK general election on 7 May.
The Conservative, Green, Labour, Liberal Democrat and UK Independence Party (UKIP) documents did not mention shipping, ports, maritime industries or maritime training. Political commentators believe that the next UK government is likely to be a coalition created from two or more of these parties.
The small Green Party did state that it would prioritise ferries and waterborne transport over road and air, and its website contains detailed policies on ferries and freight shipping. The other manifestos discussed only road, rail and air transport.
Speaking for the UK Chamber of Shipping (UKCS), Jonathan Roberts told IHS Maritime that nevertheless, the manifestos contained “a huge amount of content” that was relevant, such as support for industry, skills and training. “We shouldn’t be too precious about having the word ‘shipping’ in a manifesto,” he said.
However, Theresa Crossley, executive director of the UK Major Ports Group, told IHS Maritime that the omissions were unfortunate. “It is disappointing to find that our politicians appear to have largely overlooked the needs of the sector in their manifestos. We will continue to press for greater recognition for the role that ports play in driving economic growth.”
The Labour Party’s Gordon Marsden, Shadow Maritime Minister, said that the party wanted the maritime sector to grow. “We recognise that this requires a renewed focus on skills and quality jobs to meet the shortage of 5,000 trained seafarers predicted for 2021. We will look to ensure fair employment practice across the UK shipping sector, we will continue to work with the industry to help develop quality maritime trailblazer apprenticeships and we will ensure the tonnage tax is providing the support seafarers need,” Marsden told IHS Maritime in a statement.
“We also want ports prized as economic assets to their community,” Marsden continued. He added that Labour would “oppose the EU Ports Services Regulation, which would bring unnecessary burdens and threaten job stability”.
UKIP’s transport spokesperson, Jill Seymour, said that her party believes that ports played a vital role in the economy. In her response to IHS Maritime’s questions, she maintained: “Maritime has been a neglected industry and another missed opportunity to encourage it as a potential career”. The party would consider ways to promote the industry. The other parties did not respond to IHS Maritime’s requests for comment.
For UKCS, Roberts said that while politicians need to understand the importance of the maritime services sector, media coverage of shipping has increased substantially in the UK in recent years.
“The government has accepted that we’re an industry to be taken seriously,” Roberts said.