It was without a sense of irony that the government launched its deregulation agenda on the anniversaries of the sinking of the Titanic and the Herald of Free Enterprise ferry disaster; two incidents which brought about many of the safety measures the maritime industry relies upon today.
Nautilus urged its members and the wider industry to defend the safety rules for UK ships and seafarers from the government’s proposals to ‘cut red tape’.
The Union argued that such an exercise should not result in cutbacks on the very regulations set up to protect the health and wellbeing of maritime professionals, and the safety of the ships on which they work.
The consultation on the maritime section closed at the end of 2011, by which time the government’s own website had been inundated with calls from industry, unions and workers to leave most legislation in place. In fact many responses called for the government to end the Red Tape Challenge, as it was in itself creating more bureaucracy by delaying vital legislation such as the Maritime Labour Convention and Large Yacht Code.
Despite the strong calls for no cuts to legislation, in July 2012 the Department for Transport did announce a number of cuts as a result of the challenge. However, in the event, the vast majority of these cuts were to small subsections of legislation which were largely redundant. There were also a number of subsections covering the same areas which the DfT announced it would merge.
For the maritime industry, the major announcement to come out of the Red Tape Challenge was the proposal to allow international conventions to be automatically consolidated into UK law, once the country had signed up to them. This loss of ‘gold plating’ is something that the Union is still actively campaigning on. Once the effects of this change are more widely understood the Union will launch a new campaign to ensure that members’ views are heard.