Predictions of a seafarer shortage by 2026 highlight the importance of prioritising competencies and skill building, says Danica Crewing Specialists.
Managing Director Henrik Jensen warns: “We need to act now to enhance training, knowledge and leadership skills to bring more officers to the desired level and address any shortfalls, while also future-proofing our workforce.”
Adding his crewing industry perspective to analysis of the recently-published ICS/Bimco Seafarer Workforce Report, Mr Jensen said: “The reality is a little more complex than just a question of numbers. We need officers who are competent to fulfil the roles required of them onboard and to meet the specific needs of their employer.”
Danica, which provides crew for a range of high-level shipping companies, utilises robust screening programmes within its seafarer recruitment and placement procedures to ensure customers’ specific crewing needs are met. Mr Jensen reported that up to 50% of new applicants do not meet the company’s stringent entry requirements, either due to a lack of experience, skills, knowledge or a lack of leadership abilities.
“This is why it is so important for seafarers to upskill as much as possible and for officers to undergo leadership training to ensure they are able to meet the demands of the evolving shipping industry,” he explained. “You don’t have to be working in the crewing sector for long to realise that we already have a serious shortage of talent – even putting aside the problems caused by the pandemic.”
“I also strongly believe that we must provide cadet berths and opportunities for young recruits to enter the shipping industry and progress their careers, to ensure we build a robust crewing pipeline.” he added.
In addition, crew availability is impacted by today’s seafarers’ preference for longer vacations and the need for crew to attend courses during their leave time for renewal of their certificates etc. Mr Jensen advised: “We have moved from a ‘manning factor’ – the ratio between crew onboard and crew on leave – of 1.5 about ten years ago to more like 1.8 now. And for companies operating a ‘back-to-back’ policy, with two sets of top officers for each vessel, the manning factor is 2.”
With an ageing seafarer population, attracting ‘young blood’ to the industry is essential. Mr Jensen believes that shipping needs to modernise its approach to recruitment and retention in order to appeal to Generation Z.
“With strong competition for young talent, particularly from the IT sector, the maritime industry needs to work harder to promote itself and the opportunities it can offer,” said Mr Jensen. “Generation Z’s expectations from the workplace are different. They are seeking a fulfilling career with plenty of opportunities, as well as a good work-life balance and environmental and ethical principles.
Urging the industry to do all it can to combat negative stories in the mainstream media, Mr Jensen commented: “The shipping industry still offers a fulfilling and varied professional career, both at sea and ashore, and we need to work together to ensure this message is conveyed to talented young people who can bring their enthusiasm and a fresh perspective to our maritime community.”