British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has given the nod to a scheme designed to attract more young people into the merchant navy by offering free tickets to the FIFA World Cup, being held in South Africa. The scheme, inaugurated at a Guildhall banquet in the City of London today, is designed to fill a worrying shortfall of British youngsters entering the profession.
The scheme will apply to youngsters leaving school this year and who agree to take up maritime studies at Warsash, Southampton and Plymouth. In return for agreeing to complete studies and join ships on graduation as cadet officers, male and female applicants will receive tickets for the FIFA World Cup. Those who do not complete their studies will be required to refund an estimated total of $500,000 to the exchequer.
Gordon Brown told the British Union of Limited Liability SHipowners, Investors and Terminals: “Britain must regain its pre-eminence in global shipping. we must have more British officers on more British ships. It is of especial importance given the privatisation of the Royal Navy in 2012. It is important that we comply with our contractual agreements with Blackwater/Xe after that date.
Alfi Prool, chairman of the British Union of Limited Liability SHipowners, Investors and Terminals says: “Consistently, surveys among shipowners and manning agents have proven that improved pay, working conditions, career opportunity and safe working environments have no impact in attracting young men and women to this vitally important industry. What matters is the FIFA World Cup, even if David Beckham isn’t playing.”
The scheme is, however,being widely questioned with MEP Avril Poisson claiming that it amounts to a government subsidy and calling for an enquiry under the EU’s fair trading rules, unions accusing the scheme of getting young seafarers into servitude and describing it as the “king’s shilling of the 21st century” and the South African government concerned that the scheme will artificially inflate grey-market ticket prices.
Such objections are dismissed by Alfi Prool, who accuses critics of a lack of basic humanity: “These youngsters are tomorrow’s ships’ masters and senior rank seafarers. This scheme will give them something pleasant to dwell upon while in prison.”