Training acts not only as a career enhancer, but also plays an essential role in the modernisation of the shipping industry as a whole.
The future sustainability of the industry requires an evolutionary response to the training and retention of seafarers. We need to do more than simply respond to changing needs, we must learn to anticipate them and thereby control the development of the industry. There is always a danger in these circumstances that investment in training can be a victim. Now, perhaps as never before, companies must have an eye to the future and consider that significant growth in shipping could return within the next 5 years. Employers must recognise that decisions made in these difficult times should not inhibit the future sustainability of the industry. Investment in training and recruitment is an essential part of assuring good industrial health. We are experiencing a transition into a ‘smart’ era, which will feature integrated technology and automated functions and systems. Certainly, there will be a continuous challenge to ensure that seafarers’ skills reflect their changing roles on board ship. Seafarers may no longer be required so much to use machines but rather to collaborate with them. Our lobbying efforts with European governments have seen a welcome increase in Search and Rescue resources such that the call on merchant ships to undertake harrowing rescues has been reduced, but not eliminated. However, until the United Nations takes a direct role in this situation it is difficult to see how the appalling death toll can be reduced. Changes may well be rapid and a failure to respond with equal speed may leave training needs assessment trailing in their wake.
* Chairman of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS)- Main points of his keynote speech at this year’s Crew Connect Global Conference in Manila