Because of the downturn in world trade and the falling oil price since 2014, shipping in general and the offshore sector in particular have been hard hit and although there is still apparently a shortage of skilled crew, shore-based jobs have been disappearing at a frightening pace. The lack of new orders means that shipbuilders and equipment suppliers have also needed to tighten their belts and let staff go. Yesterday the latest in these fat trimming exercises saw Rolls-Royce announcing a further round of job cuts in its marine division. Planned measures include another simplification of the structure of the business, with a streamlining of the senior management team, and a series of cost reduction initiatives which will result in the loss of around 800 jobs worldwide and an estimated £45-50 million of annualised savings from mid-2017. Costs of this restructuring are expected to be around £20 million, split between 2016 and 2017. The proposals follow a series of cost reduction initiatives carried out over the past three years and the proposed job reductions are in addition to the reduction of 1,000 employees announced in May and October last year. As part of the programme, investments are also being proposed to establish an R&D centre for the development of new propulsion products, and an expanded Services hub for Northern Europe, both in Ulsteinvik, Norway. The organisational changes will also increase the strategic focus on developing further electrical and digital technologies as the maritime industry shifts towards a more digital future where Ship Intelligence plays a greater role. Mikael Makinen, Rolls-Royce, President – Marine, said: “Reducing our workforce is never an easy decision, but we have no option but to take further action beyond the changes we have made to date. This remains a fundamentally strong business, but we need to overcome the immediate challenges and focus our investments on the technologies that will shape our future growth.” While nobody wants to see jobs disappear, the fact that Rolls-Royce has been an enthusiastic cheerleader for autonomous and unmanned ships and still seems to be so going forward; may cause some of the seamen whose jobs would be under threat if such a development ever really took off to consider the latest news as an ironic case of the biter being bit. Image:Rolls Royce - This future bridge operation experience concept (oX) for tug vessels.