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Middle East offshore marine sector facing labour challenges

Seafarer certification and the IMO’s STCW Convention may no longer be fit for purpose, according to participants in the human element session of Seatrade Offshore Marine and Workboats Middle East, moderated by Joe Brincat, ABS regional vice president.

Sunil Chaudhary, founder director of CS Offshore suggested that, like aviation, seafarer certification should be ship type-specific. A master’s ticket enables a ship’s captain to command any type of vessel but sailing a VLCC was completely different to controlling an anchor handler or a diving support ship.

Brincat himself outlined some of the challenges facing the recruiters of seafaring and shore-based marine personnel tomorrow. Although it is a global issue, Brincat said that Middle East operators face region-specific challenges. Shipping in the Gulf is expanding rapidly and the workboat fleet in particular is bigger than ever. Vessels are more sophisticated, incorporating greater automation, hybrid engines and greater position-keeping capabilities. However, he said, it’s all very well having up-to-the-minute hardware, but ships need to be operated safely by competent and experienced personnel. Retention was an area of particular concern, he said.

Martin Renilson, Dean of the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT), lamented that shipping is not seen by young people as an industry of choice. Students were queuing up to join courses in aviation maintenance Renilson said that he and his team were still facing a challenge to fill spaces on the new maritime degree courses developed at HCT.

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