Robban Assafina goes through the worldwide lack of seafarers and manning challenges and the significance of academic and industrial integration
The lack of #seafarers has become a worldwide problem targeting ship owners and management companies, as young graduates are getting remotely distracted from this profession to build on careers of better job circumstances.
Arab crews are no exception and, in the same manner, manning challenges surround companies in the region. With an aim to highlight this matter, Robban Assafina gathered insight on the worldwide lack of seafarers and manning challenges, assisted by an academic, #crewing, and seafarer points of view.
According to experts, young graduates are losing interest in this profession, and as Ionut Paris, Director of Training Services at Global Maritime Consultants Group (GMCG), the maritime service provider of ship registration services, marine surveys and compliance, training and crewing, puts it, “The maritime profession is still rated as a “hard job career” compared to more appealing new careers such as IT, management, etc.”
Somehow, the loss of interest in this profession shapes the reasons behind the worldwide lack of seafarers, as fresh graduates consider several matters and challenges that current seafarers are dealing with. According to International Maritime College Oman (IMCO)’s Captain Seyed Behbood Issazadeh & Chief Engineer Hamiz Reza, being separated from family and home, dangerous injuries and physical risks, maritime piracy, strict maritime regulations, fatigue and depression, inadequate social life, shore leaves with restrictions and loosing social credit, are some of the reasons behind this.
|Read More: MP Adib Abdel Massih, CEO, Marine Core, talks to Robban Assafina about the development plans in light of the market’s growth period|
GMCG’s Paris believes that this worldwide problem is caused by manpower shortage, affecting the horizontal lines of supply and transport in the maritime world, explaining that “The shortage of qualified seafarers can lead to long time cargo operations on vessels, poor handling and even accidents and loss of cargos.”
This shortage, according to Captain Issazadeh & Chief Engineer Reza, will affect the supply and demand of critical raw materials and essential cargos of people, lowering the quality of maritime services and increasing the cost and duration of commodity shipping.
“At all levels of recruitment and crewing, slow crew population growth should be addressed. Some ideas include a comprehensive approach to seafarer safety and welfare, quicker accreditation for senior-level posts, and increased training for junior-level crews.”
|Chief Engineer Hamiz Reza|
Captain Issazadeh & Chief Engineer Reza continue to talk of the factors shaping this shortage of seafarers: “Maritime occupations are not of interest to the new generation, due to the technological, financial, and social status disadvantages compared to other jobs and fields. The secret to attracting more sailors to crewing could be digitalizing on board operations, and eventually, managers will have more time to commit to promoting crew competency, safety and welfare.”
An increase in the minimum monthly salary for all sailors around the world has been agreed upon by ILO. A subcommittee of the Joint Maritime Commission (JMC) of the International Labor Organization (ILO) decided to raise the minimum monthly basic wage for capable seafarers. Additionally, the international transport worker federation, IFT, and the joint negotiating group (JNG) also reached an agreement to raise the seafarers’ pay by 3 percent in 2022 and another 1.5 percent starting in January 2023.
|Abd El Hamid shaat|
However, this is not enough to bridge the gap. Captain Issazadeh & Chief Engineer Reza say that according to human resource management studies, pay, benefits, and working conditions all have an impact on job satisfaction: “Because of the global inflation brought on by the conflict in Ukraine and Russia as well as other events like the pandemic, 4.5 percent does not seem to be enough to encourage seafarers to work in this sector. Therefore, additional measures and initiatives are likely needed to restore the balance and address the global seafarer shortage.”
|Read More: Manager Director Ranim Ibrahim Obeid tells Robban Assafina about GMCG’s plans to invest in new technologies & solutions|
Unfortunately, it is not just the loss of interest from seafarers, as this disturbance is accompanied by obstacles hindering the progress of dealing with this shortage. Since Arab seafarers are employed by Arab ship owners or managers, it is difficult, according to Paris, to breach the foreign ship management market due to poor learning and examination systems in some home countries, along with cultural and language barriers.
|Captain Seyed Behbood Issazadeh|
IMCO’s Captain Issazadeh & Chief Engineer Reza elaborate more on this subject, discussing various factors affecting the crewing of Arab seafarers such as access to standard training and education, limited opportunities for career advancement, inadequate infrastructure and technology, and linguistic barriers. They believe that those obstacles can be overcome by drawing a pathway plan to achieve sustainable shipping, similar to the plan followed in the Sultanate of Oman.
“Oman Shipping Company plays an essential role in shipping and supporting seafarers. In its fleet, this company ordered and used new ships built with modern shipbuilding technologies. A scholar ship has also been provided to people studying marine engineering, electro-technical officers, and nautical science in Oman. It also offers undergraduates the chance to do internships on board the company’s fleet as part of its support for the maritime industry.”
This is an excellent performance, according to Captain Issazadeh & Chief Engineer Reza, that has not only increased the sense of hope and satisfaction among young people, but also made a positive step towards achieving sustainable development.
Flexibility is an asset
From a more detailed point of view, Abd El Hamid Shaat, Ship Operations Manager – DPA & CSO at GulfNav, highlights the Arab crewing challenges based on his practical experience as a former seafarer and chief officer on board oil carriers, as well as his various positions in a number of prestigious companies in the shipping sector, including ADNOC (2010-2015) and DNV (as a marine surveyor for two years).
“Arab Seafarers of certain nationalities may experience some problems when it comes to travelling and crossing borders. That’s why ship owners prefer seafarers of flexible passports that entitle them to go anywhere. Most seafarers are of Indian and Filipino nationalities; there might be some Arab officers, however Arab seafarers are rarely found on board.”
Shaat admitted that being a seafarer was not an easy thing, back when he was a cadet on board AASTT’s training ship “Aida 4”, a passenger vessel and not a bulk carrier, which gave him a different experience from that of being on an oil carrier for example. That was before he was promoted to third Engineer and gained work experience from working on board cargo vessels and carriers.
“Despite the fact that the nationalities of Arab seafarers on board ships remain to be Egyptian, Jordanian and Syrian, it is much sought that the young generation further engages in the maritime and shipping industry, with the academic maritime education and training’s continuous development.”
So how should academic institutions bridge the gap?
From one side, Paris refers to technology; The Maritime learning system should embrace the new online and blended learning tools to be more attractive for students.
From another side, this gap originates in the maritime academies, which must provide means of training for their students after graduation, with the help of their reliable relationships with shipowners, says Shaat. This can certainly assist in providing jobs on board reputable commercial ships, and most probably help in the problem of employing Arab seafarers and increase the required flexibility in this aspect.
The academic institutions can play a significant role in bridging the gap; Captain Issazadeh & Chief Engineer Reza, backed up by their 12 years of academic and operational experience in the maritime field, believe that this bridge cannot be built as long as there is no meaningful relationship between academic and industrial societies. In their quote, they explain: “Due to the experimental nature of the maritime work, academic institutes must first deploy maritime-expertized lecturers who are familiar with academic visions.
In this regard, international and national politicians must have a real endeavour to reconcile scholar difficulties with corporate demands.”
Robban Assafina Magazine, Issue 85, May/June 2023, Edition Story, pg. 87