Mentoring is a key tool in the bid to attract young people into a career in shipping. If competent and enthusiastic Captains and Chief Engineers have the time and opportunity to educate youngsters onboard, they may instil a passion which stays with them for life.
This need for leadership onboard ships to act as coach and mentor is something which shipping should find time for. Unfortunately, from speaking to seafarers, past and present, life onboard ships have become too institutionalised and seafarers are too often treated like a commodity. Time pressure and tight deadlines, together with shorter port stops mean the seafaring life has lost some of its charm.
The life of the seafarer is not the same as it was in the romantic past. Should you want to stroll around whilst at port you’ll need a visa and permission even to disembark the ship. Seafaring charities are making headway in helping make this an easier process, but it has led some to already give up trying to go ashore whilst at port.
Speaking with InterManager, whose members are responsible for more than 250,000 crew onboard some 5,000 ocean-going vessels, you get a real understanding for the issues which are starting to raise their heads. A spearhead training initiative lead by the association has recommended minimum of two cadet berths per vessel and is pressing for global standards to be applied to nautical colleges to ensure cadets meet recognised training standards. InterManager is concerned about the oversupply of seafarers who cannot find a job because of the turbulent offshore industry which has led to an influx of available seafarers.
The answer? There is no simple one, sadly. But as InterManager has said in the past, ship owners and managers must plan their crew structure to ensure opportunities for career progression and to make sure roles are available within the company to enable cadets to progress to more responsible positions.