Grooming for the new job openings in merchant shipping

TE Raja Simhan | Updated on August 23, 2021

Set to sail: India supplies nearly 10 per cent of the worldwide fleet’s 16 lakh seafarers   -  ISTOCK.COM

Government, industry and maritime institutes should work together to put more seafarers onboard ships

The global merchant shipping fleet is expected to grow by 6.4 per cent in the next five years. This is good news for India, which supplies nearly 10 per cent of the 16-lakh global seafarers to the worldwide fleet and can increase its supply further. India is home to the second largest number of seafarers after the Philippines.

However, it is not going to be easy for India as competition is severe not only from the Philippines but also from the Russian Federation, China and Indonesia. The government, industry and maritime institutes should work together to promote seafaring and put more seafarers onboard the ships globally.

At the start of 2021, the world merchant fleet made up of 74,505 ships across 11 main segments covered by the BIMCO ICS Seafarer Workforce Report 2021. This is projected to reach 79,282 by 2025 end. This means, demand for qualified manpower is expected to go up by 1.40 lakhs, said a shipping expert.

India has always provided quality seafarers and is recognised as a reliable and important source of marine manpower for global ships. Both officers and ‘rating’ — skilled seafarers who carry out support work for officers in all departments — are much sought after by the global shipping industry.

Looking at the shortfall of STCW (Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers) certified officers indicate that demand for seafarers in 2021 has outpaced supply, says Captain N Kumar, Director of the Chennai-based School of Maritime Studies, VISTAS.

To meet the future demand for seafarers it is vital that the industry actively promotes careers at sea and enhances maritime education and training worldwide, with a focus on the diverse skills needed for a greener and more digitally connected industry. This is important as India recovers from the effects of the pandemic and will need to address concerns that could see seafarers turning away from careers in shipping, he said.

Administrations need to plan and develop strategies to adapt to the evolving supply and demand scenario of certified seafarers. Government and DG Shipping should actively promote seafaring and help young seafarers to find training berths onboard on merit, he added.

In the long run, to increase the seafarers’ supply, a more robust industry driven training programme for young aspirants needs to be conceptualised and implemented, said Captain Shiv Halbe, CEO, Maritime Association of Shipowners, Ship managers and Agents. The maritime profession has changed considerably over the past decades, with a significant amount of automation and use of technology driving the day-to-day operation of ships. Thus, ‘hands on’ training has no alternative, he said.

India’s policy of ‘beyond STCW’ has enabled the development of various simulation technologies and this has assisted, to a large extent, in creating or developing skill sets which are business driven. Further, since India is home to some of the big names in simulator technology, adaptation or development of a specific need is done swiftly, without significant lead time. This enables the industry to ‘react’ to a demand in real time, with very little gestation period, he said.

In terms of training content and delivery, we are well equipped to take up the challenges of future demand, said Captain Rajesh Tandon, Director, Foreign Ship-owners Representatives and Ship Managers Association.

India has to raise the bar to satisfy the requirements, backed by stringent regulatory control and monitoring by the maritime administration prevailing today.

Published on August 22, 2021

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