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Study reveals urgent need to boost seafaring profession

Study reveals urgent need to boost seafaring profession
 
A new study on the future global supply and demand of seafarers projects that by 2020, the maritime industry will need to recruit an additional 32,153 officers and 46,881 ratings above 2010 figures to meet growing needs. The study also reveals that to achieve this, the industry also needs to tackle problems of attraction and retention of newcomers to the profession, and makes recommendations on how these targets could be achieved.
 
Undertaken by The Nippon Foundation and the Japan International Transport Institute (JITI), the Study on the future global supply and demand for seafarers and possible measures to facilitate stakeholders to secure a quantity of quality seafarers was presented yesterday (11 May) at a seminar at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) headquarters in London by JITI President Mr Makoto Washizu. How, he asked, are we going to secure the necessary number of young people for the future security of the maritime industry?
 
The seminar, which included a special address by Efthimios Mitropoulos, Secretary General of the IMO, also discussed how a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) approach could be adopted to improve working conditions and boost the image of the seafaring profession, thereby helping to bring in the high-calibre recruits so urgently needed. Some 150 delegates from the maritime industry, governments and academia attended.
 
The Steering Committee, chaired by Mr Washizu, which carried out the study, formed in response to increasing concerns about seafarer shortages, was composed of academics and representatives from the maritime industry. They looked closely at the reasons for the discrepancy between supply and demand and found that a mixture of economic and public perception factors were responsible. While the recent global economic crisis had temporarily affected world cargo movement, projections for industry growth over the coming ten years were still high.
 
The Committee investigated the image of seafaring careers among potential recruits by consulting students at 12 maritime institutes in six countries. Currently too few young people are joining the industry, and too many existing seafarers are seeking shore-based jobs early in their careers. Responses to the questionnaires revealed the need to attract the interest of potential seafarers from an early age, and to keep their interest throughout their education. While respondents seemed drawn to seafaring as a high-status vocation and praised the wages and job satisfaction, most felt pessimistic about the on-board lifestyle, and cited poor conditions at sea and difficulty with relationships and family life as reasons for planning to move to land-based work in the future. Seminar speaker Dr Bjrn Kjerfve, President of the World Maritime University, further pointed out that piracy incidents are on the increase and that 200 seafarers are being held hostage at the present time.
 
Another area of concern is that too few women take jobs as seafarers, and 94% of all women who go to sea work on ferries and cruise ships, with only 6% in maritime cargo transportation. Women are dissuaded by a lack of family friendly policies, health and safety concerns and a perceived lack of career progression, as they are often entrusted with fewer duties than male colleagues.
 
As an example of best practices the industry should adopt, Maria Bottiglieri, from the Giuseppe Bottiglieri Shipping Company, pointed out that her company had started to provide a free company nursery to attract and accommodate more female seafarers. This was also recommended by Mr Washizu who pressed for the introduction of a support system for female seafarers, including financial support by companies for babysitting arrangements.
 
These findings led the Steering Committee to propose several measures to stakeholders for securing a new generation of high-calibre seafarers, based on attracting newcomers to the profession, providing increased education, training and support to those already going to sea, increasing female participation in the industry and strengthening information dissemination and national policy. Under these headings, stakeholders were urged to improve conditions both at sea and in maritime institutes and to strengthen relationships between the two.
 
 In a paper, Peter Cremers, CEO of Anglo-Eastern Ship Management Services, said:  To make our industry more attractive, the living conditions on board must be improved to be in line with the expectations of the youngsters. The minimum requirements must be upgraded so that the accommodation on board feels like a home and not a posting to a remote location.
 
He also pointed out that young seafarers and prospective recruits now used online social networks to discuss the working conditions provided by various companies, and even compared which routes and ships they preferred within a company.  The shipping industry should seize the opportunity created by such new technologies to foster employee loyalty early on, he stated.

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