Vessel tonnage registered in the UK rose by 8% during 2015 to reach 13.7m dwt, but the fleet owned by UK-registered companies shrunk by 18% over the year and totalled 13.5m dwt at the end of last year.
The UK-managed fleet fell by 1% to 53.4m dwt and the parent-owned fleet rose by 3% to 31m dwt, according to data from the UK Chamber of Shipping.
“The rise of 8% of UK-flagged tonnage, for the first time in four years, is a positive sign of the nascent recovery in confidence in the UK Ship Register, and follows the government’s commitment to undertake significant reform of the Register and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA),” said Guy Platten, CEO of the UK Chamber.
“That the UK share of the global fleet has fallen significantly at a time when global tonnage has increased by 5% clearly demonstrates the necessity of these changes and highlights the urgent need for these reforms to be delivered. It is also clear that if the UK is to reach the government’s own target of 2% of world tonnage and reverse the recent decline of the UK flag, that there remains a long way to go.”
The 2015 figures reflect a long-term trend for the UK’s fleet and vessels sailing under its flag. Between 2010 and 2015, tonnage sailing under the UK flag has declined at an average rate of 3% per annum, while the total world fleet has grown by 5% per annum. UK-owned tonnage has declined by 36% over the same five-year period.
Platten said the UK MCA and the ship register must be reformed “quickly and ambitiously” for the UK flag to remain competitive and commercially attractive in the international market.
“If we are to compete and grow as a maritime nation we must build a business environment where shipowning is attractive to entrepreneurs and investors, and ensure that these businesses are given the necessary support to enable them to grow into the major shipowners of the future,” he said.
“That the UK is open to international investment is one of the great things about our economy, but the government must recognise the serious long-term threat the decline in UK ownership represents, and work with the industry to ensure that we do not loose further ground to our global competitors.”