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Discussion Starter #1
From MCA News -

Red Ensign gains fifth Wilhelmsen ship

The pure car and truck carrier `Topeka' (IMO No: 9310109) was flagged to the Red Ensign on Saturday 12th August as part of the vessel's naming ceremony - making it the fifth vessel in the Wilhelmsen Lines Car Carrier fleet to come under the UK Flag in recent months.

The 'Topeka' joins its sister ships 'Toronto', `Toledo' and `Torrens', along with the 'Morning Concert', which was flagged-in at the end of July.

The 61321GT 'Topeka', was constructed at the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries shipyard in Japan, under Norwegian and DNV regulations. The pre-flagging survey and inspection was undertaken by a senior MCA Surveyor in Southampton where the crews' competency and ability to work with the vessel's life saving and safety equipment was tested.

John Astbury, Chief Executive of the Maritime & Coastguard Agency, said after the flagging-in ceremony that he was delighted with the rise in UK and foreign owners registering with the UK Flag.

Taking a long-term strategic view of the importance of our shipping and wider maritime-related industries to Britain, he said: "Ninety-five percent of UK trade is carried in ships and the value of trade related to shipping - including management, legal and insurance services - contributes significantly to the UK economy.

"The industry earns £322 per second for the UK economy and for the first time in over ten years it outstripped air transport to become third in the services sector in terms of export earning at £7.1 billion

"In the past five years, the commercial shipping fleet owned and managed in the UK has more than doubled in carrying capacity - and the UK-flagged fleet has more than quadrupled. Large numbers of ships pass by our coasts, almost as many use our ports, making the UK both a Coastal and Port State."


Rushie (Thumb)
 

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The once proud Red Ensign slowly but surely being made a flag of convenience & with all the men at the top being so proud of the fact that it is them that are making it so.............Including a well known ex passie winger!! (Night)
 

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Convenient that he did not mention how many "real British" seaman's jobs will this mighty vessel will create.
 

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re red ensign

Yes, all the "breast beating"re the Red Ensign,but it doesnt say if British Seamen are manning the vessels??? is there any law that once you fly the red ensign that you have to employ British crews???
 

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Paul J Burke said:
Yes, all the "breast beating"re the Red Ensign,but it doesnt say if British Seamen are manning the vessels??? is there any law that once you fly the red ensign that you have to employ British crews???
There is no law requiring British seafarers to be employed on British-flag vessels. Some ships classified as "strategic" (roros that can load tanks and other tracked vechicles and fishing boats that can be utilised for mine laying/sweeping operations) have to have a British, EU or Commonwealth master but this rule is largely ignored.

NUMAST has asked the Labour Government to have an "employment link" between the flag and at least some of the crew but this has been effectively rejected. The UK economy does benefit from having British flagged vessels even when these ships are not British owned or manned.

What I'm concerned about is the British flag becoming another flag-of-convenience. Job or no-job, that would be the ultimate insult to British seafarers, past and present.
 

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re red ensign

Yes Capt Pete, it would certainly be interesting to know the "breakdown" of crews aboard the Norwegian owned ships flying the red ensign-to my knowledge, Wilhemsen ships employ a lot of Filipino Seamen with normally the Master or Chief Engineer being Norwegian.as you said ,it would be the ultimate "slap in the face" to have the red ensign become another "flag of convenience."
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I agree.

I think you'll struggle to find any Brits on any of the Lapthorn coasters...all registered in London and flying red ensigns.

Rushie
 

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Let us not forget our Norwegian colleagues. I’m quite sure they would prefer to sail under the Norwegian flag rather than the British given the choice.
 

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When the ship I was on was re-flagged to the red Ensogn (Castletown I.O.M.)
I considered it a F.O.C.
There were no British crew on it (I cosider myself excluded as I only have a Canadian Passport and get a funny stamp on it when entering the U.K. "Not allowed to stay over six months and not to accept employment"!!!!!)
That in London from a gentleman with dark skin and an east Indian accent.
 

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The ITF have made the red ensign a flag-of-convenience on a ship-by-ship basis. However, what is a flag? On the news in the UK this morning was a report that the Royal Navy is to sell the white ensign as a brand mark for putting on t-shirts, sports equipment and the like. They seem to think that it will aid recruitment but I wonder what the RN veterans would feel about when the louts are wearing it on their baseball caps?
 

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Does it matter whether the 'winger' had a hand in this? No matter what we say - and we surely moan - the die was cast years ago when UK flag outfits began to emplioy non- domiciled individuals aboard nominally UK registered ships.

When challenged, shipowners simply stated 'We employ UK officers! ", as if that made it OK (talking as an ex NUS Convenor with the then Star Offshire company)

Back then we got NO support from the officers who thought they could never be replaced - seems that worm turned long ago. I say no support with feeling but could single out one Master - who was also the NUMAST rep as it happened - who tried to provide support but never got it as his members feared standing together would single them out. Well, if we had the gift of foresight....

Best just accept the fact that the Red Ensign doesn't exisit in terms of maritime identity anymore; it's just another FOC.

Jonty
 

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It was on John Major's watch that the requirement for UK certificated ranks on UK registered ships was withdrawn, I think in response to owners pointing out a shortage of trained UK personnel. Prior to that it was a requirement for the master, mate, second mate, chief engineer and second engineer to have UK, or Commonwealth equivalent certificates; the radio officer may well have been included also, I cannot recall.
CBoots
 

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The ratings also had requirements! Having been made redundant from three UK owned, UK flag, UK registered ships in one year, the impact that had on myself, and other ratings, was a bitter pill to swallow. Oh and well qualified - AB's, Navigational Rating's Watchkeeping certificate, HF and VHF Radio Certificates, Crane Drivers, Fire Fighting, FRC Coxswain, Lifeboat, steering, 3 day sea survival, First (Basic) Aid. I think it is safe to say that in the mid 80's, UK ratings were required to be qualified.

One outfit recruited me, sent me to Ijmuiden to join a ship - where I found all the deck ratings were Filipino and my job (it transpired once I'd signed articles) was to 'train' them to work the deck on an OSV. 28 days later, home on leave, I get the 'thank you for your services but unfortunately.... ' letter in the post. No pre-contract truths about why I was employed, no warnings from any of the officers aboard the ship that this was the way of it - just a month's salary, a month's paid leave and not much to look forward to. Someone knew; no-one said a damned word.

Whether it was John Major's watch or not, there was never any protectionism for UK ratings - not even the NUS could guarentee us employment conditions, although they tried by negotiation with companies. BTW, at one Tory Party Conference in Brighton, when Maggie was in, the glassy eyed muppets who followed her were singing 'Land of Hope and Glory' whilst waving Red Ensigns......... talk about a kick in the teeth!

I still find the duplicity practised by shipowners then a bitter pill to swallow and whilst I am not going to be crass enough to say that had NUMAST stood with us we might have achieved something, it was really 'Me first, me second and if there's anything left over, me third too' mentality. Seafarer's solidarity? Oh, how we laughed!

We became an FOC, as someone pointed out, years ago. Nowadays that is all we are - and it is a dark stain on what was once a proud and professional industry. No matter the economic / socio-political / labour market spins that is put on the reason, I still believe that when Maggie effectively emasculated the union movement, we lost our chance to fight. Fighting would have brokered some sort of deal - but you can never let emotions get in the way of profit - and since time immemorial, that is what shipowners are in business for.

Jonty
 

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One lesson that I learnt rather quickly at sea, though it probably applies elsewhere as well, is that when the "lads" say, "we're right behind you mate," always check just how far behind you they actually mean, tends to be a lot further than you think!
CBoots
 

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" Follow me, I'm right behind you" more likely. As for the Topeka etc she will have 2, or less, British cadets on board as per tonnage tax agreement. Whatever happens to these when they gain their 1st ticket is well known................Majority of them on the beach with no prospects.
 

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CBoots and Pat,

BY 'lads' I presume we are speaking about everyone aboard ship? (just testing....!)

What a future for these cadets! Once they get their tickets they're out of work in many cases! There isn't even a modi*** of acknowledgement about the Flag status vs employment issue from the "proud" politicians who stand up on their podiums and pontificate about " more British registered ships in existance since the last government....blah, blah, blah " Liars, every damned one of them!

In my experience I was only let down by the "lads" (lower deck variety) once and that was when a certain UK shiping company paid men to sail their ships during a strike - quite a fair sum too, I hasten to add. Their negotation tactic was: " Either accept that we are not bringing our wages in line with everyone else or we'll flag the ships out ". Talk about holding a gun at your head!

I had the displeaure of watching two of their ships leaving Aberdeen crewed by men who suddenly decided they didn't want to be in the union but took the Judas coin.

Whilst it may sound dated to say this, I can still hold my head up and say I fought, and yes, lost - but I stood my ground for the priciples I believed in. I was never a 'ranting' unionist but I did believe in fair play. I still do. Fair play, however, was something that was in short supply during the 80's - and look where it's got us!

BTW, the 'stand behind me chaps' mentality is very much in evidence nowadays as well. Everyone has an opinion - very few of them will stand and air it though. I learned that lesson years ago too - but I also learned to stand and fight for what I believe in.

If the sea gave me one useful thing, it was the knowledge that if you want something doing, do it yourself.

Jonty (might change that to Mr Digruntled or Angry of Kidlington.....)
 

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In my previous post I deliberately put lads in inverted commas as I meant it to imply all those who were party to a dispute, on the employees' side of course. As one who would also not regard myself as a particular militant in union terms, but nevertheless has been involved in a couple of disputes, I can say that solidarity is extremely difficult to achieve, and far more difficult to maintain. The last dispute that I was involved with concerned a safety issue and was really one of the mates against the master and company. The union, at that time the MNAOA, were extremely reluctant to get involved and the local rep sat drinking in the master's cabin virtually throughout. We had solidarity to begin with but it crumbled, I am sorry to say largely through the crew accepting an obvious bribe in the form of an extremely untypically generous bonus to work unsupervised and without the safety issues being addressed. Dispite being very bitter at the time, it is hard, in retrospect, to blame anyone in particular. All concerned had their own agenda and many of those people, master included, would have needed that job far more than I did. If the master had expressed just some support for our concerns, then maybe that union rep would have found some backbone, but these are all what ifs. Many people, probably the majority, do not express themselves very well and if one is more eloquent, then it is inevitable that the burden of spokesman is going to fall on you. I would say regard it as a duty, regard it as a privilege, just don't expect any thanks for it; rather expect to be stabbed in the back and you are less likely to be disappointed. Remember that historically it was generally the policy of the admiralty, when faced with general unrest and discontent throughout the fleet to endeavour to isolate the leadership and swing them from the yard arm. They would then buy off the rest as cheaply as possible, usually with false promises. Humankind is frail and easily mislead; that is why when the cause is right good leadership is essential if the frail are to surprise us all, themselves included.
But where does all this leave the red ensign, and other traditional state flags come to it? Right now I would suggest that it is all just part and parcel of corporate globalisation, the latest and the greatest in a long line of con tricks played on the broad mass of humanity. And if you are going to fight that one brothers you are going to need solidarity like you've never even envisaged before as it is going to have to span all the traditional divides of nation state, race, religion etc.
CBoots
 
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