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Live from CrewConnect Global

Recommend a career at sea to your children? - No say majority at crewing conference

Photo: Marcus Hand Panel at day 2 of Crew Connect
The second day of Seatrade Maritime Crew Connect Global 2023 saw senior executives grappling with the issues of both retaining existing seafarers and getting young people to take up a career at sea.

A pair of back-to-back panels focused in on a number of areas of concern including a lack of visible career path, the way seafaring is presented, a failure to execute crew changes as planned, and connectivity.

In a telling illustration of the challenge the industry faces a poll of the audience of shipping professionals as to whether they would want to inspire their children to become seafarers some 57% said “no”.

For young people coming into the industry there is a twin challenge both of image of seafarering as career and lack of a visible career path.

Gerardo Borromeo, CEO and Vice Chair of PTC Group, one of the world’s largest suppliers of seafarers, said the word “prestigious” needed to be brought into the narrative when promoting seafaring as a career. PTC has a tagline of ‘Moving the world’ underscoring the global economic impact of crewing.

In the Philippines people been attracted to shipping by the financial aspect of being able to earn much higher salaries than they would ashore. Borromeo said the industry needed to develop careers to attract people and asked, “Why don’t we do what we do in the offices where every level has a career pathway?”

Dr. Martin Kroger, CEO of the German Shipowners’ Association (VDR), said the industry needs to start early going out to schools and educating students about the shipping industry.

Susanne Justesen, Project Director, Human Sustainability for the Global Maritime Forum said that technology could be used to make careers more flexible and also career paths needed to be made more visible.

However, while looking to promote the attractions of seafaring as a career Capt. John Hafner, Vice President, Seafarers’ Manning and Training for IRI/Marshall Islands, also brought up some hard realities of the job. He made the point that the fact seafaring is a dangerous career is not addressed. “Over the last two days no-one has addressed that seafaring is an inherently dangerous career. There is no way to go to sea for weeks or months at a time without danger.”

Capt. Hafner added that a seafarer sacrifices months and years of life with their family.

The failure to get crew home on time at the end of their contracts is a major issue. Nikos Gazelidis, Chief Commercial Officer of APTI Marine Travel, highlighted the fact that every third air ticket for a seafarer gets cancelled a number that far exceeds the excuse of unforeseen events.

Tommy Olofsen, Chief Commerical Officer and President of OSM Thome, and also the conference chair, commented on the stress this puts on families, and that shipping was an industry that was strong at solving problems, but not at planning.

Capt Ashok Srinivasan, Manager Department of Maritime Safety and Security for Bimco, shared that not getting home when scheduled was his “biggest challenge” when he was a seafarer, and one that eventually led him seek a position ashore.

“This is a logistics industry how can we not do better,” asked GMF’s Justesen.

The issue of connectivity also looms large for seafarers today and that was highlighted by Capt. Hafner. “I can’t imagine a young person going to sea for 8 – 9 months with spotty internet,” he said.