The introduction of the tonnage tax for shipping companies has been a response to the declining fleets in many European countries. There are strategic and commercial reasons why a maritime presence is desirable, not least of which is to maintain an important skill base. Although regimes have differed they all offer some form of preferential rates of tax for those ships on the register. In certain cases this tax subsidy has been linked to a requirement to train seafarers, notably in the UK. This article analyses the impact of the tonnage tax system and its success in achieving its objectives of fleet expansion and employment with particular reference to the UK.