Tommy Olofsen, CCO and President at OSM Thome, recently moderated a panel discussion at the Crew Connect Global conference 2023 where panellists discussed shipping’s image problem, as compared to other industries, when trying to attract the younger generation.
The audience of maritime professionals were asked in a poll if they would recommend a career at sea to their children and over half said they would not.
This telling statistic and the fact that Mr Olofsen was not surprised by the result, shows just how much ground the industry needs to make up to attract new talent to the maritime world.
With the latest Seafarer Workforce Report predicting that shipping will need an additional 89,510 officers by 2026, it is vital that key issues are addressed to put shipping on the radar of young people as a potential long-term career.
The panellists agreed more work should be done in schools and colleges to promote shipping as a an exciting, fulfilling and viable option with clearly defined and diverse career paths.
Equally, they felt that the harsh realities of life at sea should not be brushed under the carpet as it can at times be a dangerous profession. Also, time away from families and friends can be difficult.
However, the benefits of working in a global industry and the opportunities to work in different parts of the world should be viewed as a real incentive to ambitious young people.
A lot of job seekers in Asia are attracted by the higher salaries they can earn at sea when compared with those onshore however many young people these days are also looking to work for companies that share their values. In particular, the younger generation are very concerned about the environment and so will be attracted to companies that can demonstrate what they are doing to become more sustainable.
Shipping is making great strides at looking at ways to decarbonize but clearly more can be done especially if it is to hit the IMO’s target of zero GHG emissions by 2050.
Other areas that the industry needs to address is connectivity. Millennials have grown up with 24/7 internet access and will not put up with extended periods of time with no online access. Employers need to address this issue as those with good connectivity solutions will be more successful in employing younger workers than those that cannot.
Capt Ashok Srinivasan, Manager Department of Maritime Safety and Security for BIMCO, also pointed out that ship owners and managers need to ensure that seafarers get home promptly after the end of their onboard contract as not achieving that can lead to some seeking employment ashore.
PTC Group Chief Executive Gerardo Barromeo stated that a career in shipping had become devalued and that we should emphasize the prestigious nature of the job roles. Mr Olofsen concurred with this and felt that part of the blame could be related to the outdated terms used in certain job role titles like ‘ordinary’ and ‘able-bodied’.
However, Julia Anastasiou, Chief Crew Management Officer and Cyprus Managing Director at OSM Thome, during a recent interview with TradeWinds expressed how much crew are seen as valuable assets to the ship manager saying, “We have a unique setup — we employ the majority of our crew and we are utilising our own manning offices in the vast majority of our operation to ensure unparalleled quality for our customers’ vessels.”
President and managing director of OSM Thome in the Philippines, Mailyn Borillo speaking during an interview with Marino World, concurred saying, “Seafarers are human being not human doing,” emphasizing that “Shipmanagement is about people, retaining the right people.” She added, “Retaining the right individual also draws in more interest to the workforce. Retaining the right people involves a strong emphasis and concrete action on both their professional development and holistic well-being. Without this, any initiative to attract the younger generation will be futile.”
Attracting a diverse workforce is essential for an industry to grow and thrive and it is disappointing to note that The Diversity Study Group’s 2023 Annual Review of 2,500 shoreside maritime professionals described the level of women in leadership roles as poor and that the proportion of women in technical roles had declined when compared to the previous year. On the plus side the review did reveal that shipping is becoming more ethnically diverse with the proportion of leadership roles held by white people falling from 69.5% to 61%. Clearly though, there is still a lot of work to be done to create more diversity and inclusion in the maritime industry so it can shed its old outdated ‘macho’ image.
In conclusion, the maritime sector has always been the unseen and invisible industry which only gets publicity on a national and international scale when something goes wrong like an oil spill or sinking vessel. We must change that perception so the public view it as a key part of the global supply chain which transports 90% of all our goods and services and how it can bring varied, long-term and exciting job prospects for young professionals looking for a challenging and rewarding career.