To ask the Secretary of Transport, pursuant to his replies of 18 April, Official Report, columns 914–15, what factors account for the reduction in the British fleet and in employment in the United Kingdom shipping industry being greater than the world average.
The oversupply of ships on a world scale reduced the financial returns available from shipping, and British operators withdrew from the unprofitable sectors more rapidly than some of their foreign counterparts. Some other British operators have seen commercial advantage in flagging out to other registers. Changes in trading patterns have also had a particular effect on the British shipping industry, firstly because the availability of North sea oil reduced the need for imports from further afield, and secondly because a drop in oil prices resulted in a reduction in exploration related shipping activity from 1984–85.The joint working party with the General Council of British Shipping announced by my right hon. Friend on 24 May at column 288 is including in its work an assessment of the competitive position of the British shipping industry and factors which may currently deter owners from placing their ships on the British register.