Major shipping companies are warning the British government they may re-register vessels abroad due to new rules in the UK on pay for foreign workers.
Maersk, Evergreen and CMA CGM are among the 11 shipping lines that publicly protested regulations requiring carriers pay seafarers based abroad at the same scale as UK crews.
The government “appears on the verge of encouraging shipping companies to take their business elsewhere,” the carriers’ senior executives said in a letter to the Daily Telegraph newspaper.
“As a result of an obscure regulation arising from the Equality Act, many major companies will have little choice but to re-register their ships away from Britain,” the executives said.
The UK is one of the world’s biggest shipping nations, but many of its vessels employ a large number of overseas crew who are paid less than UK nationals.
UK-based shipping companies “currently pay seafarers resident abroad at levels … related to those of highly-skilled professionals in their home countries,” the lines said.
“What is being proposed would compel UK-flag operators to pay UK rates to these seafarers, even though they do not incur their living costs here and may never even set foot on British soil.”
The letter said a hike in wage costs would put UK shipping operations “under considerable pressure “not felt by their foreign rivals.”
Up to 25 percent of the UK fleet might move abroad, according to the Chamber of Shipping.
The UK has the world’s 13th largest shipping register and is the UK third largest earner from services, contributing $15 billion annually and providing around 150,000 British jobs.