Updated: RMT warns of 300 North Sea job losses post-Gulfmark acquisition

Gulfmark's North Promise vessel
Gulfmark's North Promise vessel

A trade union has called on the UK Government to intervene amid fears that hundreds of seafarers’ jobs are under threat.

RMT made the plea following offshore support vessel (OSV) operator Tidewater’s acquisition of rival firm GulfMark.

Union officials said up to 300 Scottish and UK seafarer ratings’ jobs were “on the line”.

The term “ratings” refers to crew members who are not officers.

RMT also claimed that Tidewater had refused to discuss the future of Gulfmark’s UK-registered fleet.

The union said it was unclear whether Tupe – transfer of undertakings (protection of employment) – regulations would apply to existing collective bargaining agreements with UK unions.

The UK Department for Transport vowed to monitor the impact of the merger and said it expected employment legislation to be respected.

Tidewater’s spokesman at the company’s headquarters in Houston was not immediately available for comment.

The takeover was completed on November 15, creating a company with the “largest fleet and broadest global operating footprint” in the OSV sector.

At the time, Tidewater chief executive officer John Rynd said he was “excited to welcome the GulfMark team” to the company.

Mr Rynd said the combined business would provide employees with “more opportunities as part of a global leader with a deep commitment to safety and reliability”.

Analysts said the acquisition would boost the size of Tidewater’s fleet to about 250 vessels.

Colin Smyth, Labour MSP for South Scotland, and Ian Mearns, Labour MP for Gateshead, lodged motions at the Scottish and UK Parliaments.

They both said Gulfmark operated about 30 UK-registered OSVs, “representing the last source of major employment for up to 300 UK seafarer ratings on collectively bargained rates of pay in the North Sea oil and gas industry”.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash called on Tidewater to come forward for talks, and urged Westminster to take steps to safeguard positions.

The union estimated that 1,000 UK seafarers had lost their jobs in the OSV sector since the oil price rout hit home in 2014.

Mr Cash said: “Tidewater must meet us in Aberdeen for immediate discussion of our members’ jobs on the fleet of offshore supply vessels acquired as part of the Gulfmark takeover.

“We cannot have another damaging loss of UK ratings’ jobs and I fully expect the Shipping Minister Nusrat Ghani MP, with whom we had a useful discussion of the

Tidewater-Gulfmark takeover in October, to step in to protect seafarers’ jobs in the North Sea, if necessary.”

He added: “As we head for the EU exit, non-EU companies in the North Sea need a strong reminder from trade unions and the government of the need to protect British seafarers’ jobs and trade union rights in the OSV sector.”

A spokeswoman for the UK Department for Transport said: “We are committed to protecting the rights of UK seafarers, and we will monitor the impact of this merger on UK operations.”