The Red Ensign flag will fly over the headquarters of the Department for Transport to mark the UK’s twelfth Merchant Navy Day on Saturday, 3 September (2011).
Instigated in 2000, Merchant Navy Day provides an opportunity to honour those merchant seafarers who have in many cases given their lives to the industry, as well as the chance to celebrate success and look ahead to the future of British shipping.
Shipping Minister, Mike Penning, said:
This country has a rich and proud maritime heritage covering many centuries and I am confident this will continue long into the future.
It is often forgotten that over 20,000 merchant seafarers lost their lives in the Second World War alone, doing a job that was crucial to the war effort. On Merchant Navy Day we remember them, and the other men and women of the Merchant Navy who have lost their lives over the years.
Shipping is every bit as important to the UK today - with the vast majority of goods arriving in our country by sea. The twenty-first century has so far been marked by a revival in the fortunes of British shipping, which I am determined to see continue.
More young people are being attracted to a career at sea, and more ships are flying the Red Ensign. Our shipping register has a reputation for high standards, which we have every intention of maintaining. So we salute British ships and seafarers, and look with optimism to the future prosperity of the UK maritime sector.
The Red Ensign is the official flag of the commercial shipping fleet of the UK and its Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories. It will fly over the headquarters of the Department for Transport - Great Minster House in Marsham Street, London SW1 - on Saturday 3 September. The significance of the date is that it is the anniversary of the sinking of the SS Athenia, the first British merchant vessel lost during World War II.
Since July 2001 the UK registered fleet has increased from 6,700,130 to 18,074,997 gross tons, an increase of over 160% over the past decade. The UK has the eleventh largest Merchant Fleet in the world and the fourth largest in Europe.
The increase in tonnage on the UK shipping register has been achieved without compromising quality standards. The Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) have appointed dedicated customer account managers to assist with enquiries throughout the registration process. This - and removing excess regulation - has made the UK flag more attractive.
The tonnage tax was introduced in the Finance Act 2000. Shipping companies can opt into tonnage tax, or stay in the current corporate tax regime. Tonnage tax applies normal corporation tax to notional profits determined by the tonnage of the ships operated. It brings certainty and clarity about tax liabilities and is used by a number of other EEA countries, including Germany, the Netherlands, Greece and Norway. The tonnage tax is enabling British shipping to be more internationally competitive.
A feature of the UK tonnage tax is the minimum training obligation. This normally requires each shipping company in the tax to recruit and train one officer trainee each year for every 15 officer posts in its fleet, and to give consideration to employment and training opportunities for ratings.