Press release

Red Ensign flies for Merchant Navy Day

UK's thirteenth Merchant Navy Day marked with Red Ensign flag flying over Department for Transport.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


The Red Ensign flag will fly over the headquarters of the Department for Transport to mark the UK’s thirteenth Merchant Navy Day on Monday 3 September.

Since its introduction in 2000, Merchant Navy Day has provided an opportunity to remember the sacrifices of the seafarers of the past, to show appreciation for British shipping today (3 September 2012) and to look ahead to our future as a maritime nation.

Shipping Minister Mike Penning said:

Merchant Navy Day is an opportunity to not only remember seafarers of the past, but to look to a bright future for UK shipping. More than 20,000 merchant seafarers lost their lives in the Second World War alone, while working to provide this country with the means to survive. We owe those brave seafarers a debt of gratitude for their sacrifices and the contribution they made to our national wellbeing.

More recently, it has been encouraging to see a real revival in UK shipping and in the number of young people seeking a career at sea. The British maritime sector, while facing the challenge of competition from abroad, still has a great reputation. The vast majority of goods arriving or departing the UK do so by sea, so we look forward to a future where the UK continues to be a significant and successful maritime nation.

Notes to editors

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 Horseferry Road, London SW1 - on Monday 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 January 2002 the UK registered trading fleet has increased from 5.03 to 16.64 million gross tons, an increase of over 230% over the past decade. The UK has the thirteenth largest Merchant Fleet in the world and the fifth largest in Europe.

The increase in tonnage on the UK shipping register has been achieved without compromising quality standards. The Maritime and 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.

The Support for Maritime Training scheme has been running since April 1998 and provides financial support for courses approved by the Merchant Navy Training Board and the MCA for the training of officers and ratings.

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Published 3 September 2012