International Maritime Organisation (IMO) launches ?Go to sea! A call for more seafarers? to attract entrants to the shipping industry.
A global campaign ?Go to sea! A call for more seafarers? was recently launched by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to attract entrants to the shipping industry. This initiative has come at the right time, considering that a serious shortage of manpower is threatening the future of the shipping industry. A stark indication of just how serious the manpower shortage is becoming was highlighted in a recent report issued by Drewry Shipping Consultants. It assesses the current shortfall of officers in global fleets to be around 34,000, against a requirement of 498,000. Moreover, if supply continues to increase only at current levels, the report predicts that by 2012, the officer shortfall will have risen to 83,900.
IMO"s Secretary-General, Mr Efthimios E. Mitropoulous, has said the global shortage of seafarers, especially officers, has already reached significant proportions and is now a source of genuine concern to all involved in the shipping industry.
The pressure is now on India, one of the preferred countries for recruiting seafarers, to provide more sea-going professionals. Around 6,000 officers pass out of India every year, and every shipping line would like to recruit cadets from this country.
However, issues such as "criminalisation of seafarers" around the world; piracy; tough regulations; good job opportunities on shore and concern for family prevent youngsters from looking at merchant shipping as a career, say industry sources.
Incidents such as the arrest of Indian officers in South Korea in a case related to an oil-spill has affected the morale of cadets badly, says Capt. K. Vivekanand, Director, Vels Group of Maritime Colleges. Families are worried what will happen to their wards when they face such a situation, he adds. Piracy is another major issue worrying cadets and their parents, he adds.
It may be recalled that a ship containing 260,000 tonnes of crude oil was anchored off the coast of South Korea on December 7, 2007. A crane, hauled by two tugboats broke free, owing to the rough weather, and fell on the ship. Within hours, 12,000 tonnes of crude spilled into the sea. The captain and chief officer of the Indian ship were arrested. along with those in charge of the tugboats.
?Merchant shipping is a glorious career offering good money. An officer with 15 years of service in the sea can happily retire and play golf. At no cost, officers can go around the world. However, people nowadays do not want to stay at sea for a long time. Earlier, merchant shipping officers used to spend their entire lives at sea. But, today, other industries like information technology and finance are also attracting people to come back,? says Capt Vivekanand.
Says a former merchant shipping officer, who spent over 40 years at sea, cadets are today disinterested in taking merchant shipping as career. Earlier, officers spent 30-35 years at sea. ?It was really enjoyable,? he says. Things have changed in the last five years, with shore-based jobs attracting more people. ?It will be a challenge in future to attract students to take up merchant shipping as a career,? he adds.
Capt Suresh Bhardwaj, Vice-Chancellor, Amet University, says India will continue to be the most preferred source for merchant shipping professionals. The quality of cadets is the best in India, compared to such countries as the Philippines or in East Europe. At Amet, there is an advanced demand from global shipping lines to recruit cadets for the year 2011, he says. Yes, globally the concern for environment is strong and there are stringent regulations to ensure that ships do not pollute the environment. ?We need to prepare our cadets to handle such pressures through proper training,? he said.
The "Go to Sea" campaign was launched by the IMO in association with the International Labour Organisation, the Round Table of Shipping Organisations, including BIMCO, ICS/ISF, Intercargo and Intertanko, and the International Transport Workers" Federation. The campaign calls for government, industry and the IMO, supported by the ILO and other international organisations, to take specific actions within their areas of influence, to increase the recruitment of seafarers to tackle the shortage.
The shipping industry can provide the basis for a fulfilling and satisfying lifelong career and the problem is one of recruitment, rather than retention in the profession. This requires a shift in public perception of shipping, particularly among the young. ?I have long been an advocate of the need to promote the industry and improve its public image,? says Mr Mitropoulous, on the IMO Web site.