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Seafaring Support: Red Sea

Volume 745: debated on Thursday 8 February 2024

1. What steps his Department is taking with Cabinet colleagues to support seafarers working in the Red sea. (901406)

Let me first take this opportunity to offer my support and best wishes to His Majesty the King for a swift and full recovery. I look forward to seeing him out and about again on his public-facing duties.

This is a challenging time for seafarers. Their welfare is central to our concerns during the Red sea crisis. Their bravery has ensured the continued supply of vital goods to the UK. We have engaged with organisations that represent seafarers, working closely with the International Maritime Organisation—I have met its new secretary-general twice this year. We will not hesitate to take action to protect innocent lives and preserve freedom of navigation. In response to the Red sea crisis, the RAF has engaged in three waves of proportionate and targeted strikes against Houthi military targets with the United States and other allies. My Department continues to work closely with industry to provide the best possible advice and support.

I associate myself, and the people of Banff and Buchan, with my right hon. Friend’s remarks wishing His Majesty the fullest of recoveries. Could he set out in more detail precisely what engagement the Government have had with British companies across the UK on not just the attacks but the threats of attacks in the Red sea?

I am pleased to tell my hon. Friend that we have been engaging regularly with shipping companies to ensure that they have as much advice and support as possible, so that they can take informed commercial decisions about vessel movements based on a full consideration of recent events. We provide security advisory notices and convene meetings with the sector at both official and ministerial level. I have met sector leaders to discuss these critical developments.

I thank the Minister for that positive response. It is clear that the Government are taking the right steps to broadly address the issue, but what is being done to ensure that individual seafaring companies with responsibility for crews have access to up-to-date advice? I would go so far as to suggest protective measures to enable them to keep their routes open—perhaps protective staff on boats, or helicopters or planes overhead.

The hon. Gentleman is right to put the safety of ships and seafarers at the centre of the issue, as we and the IMO do. We work very closely with the sector to ensure that it has the best possible information, both at policy level and in the region. We are taking further steps to ensure that the best advice is available on the ground, so that individual captains as well as their companies can make the best decisions commercially and, importantly, for the safety of their crews.