The maritime sector is a crucial pillar of the global economy, supporting international trade and commerce. Yet, it grapples with a significant hurdle: attracting and retaining a skilled workforce.
The shortage of qualified seafarers is a global problem that affects almost all sides of the sector, including shipping, ports, and offshore oil and gas operations. According to a study by the International Transport Forum, in 2015, the maritime industry was short of approximately 16,500 skilled workers, a number expected to increase to 147,500 by 2025.
In this article, we will examine the reasons behind the recruitment and retention issue in the maritime sector, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and suggest some solutions.
Reasons for Recruitment and Retention Problems
Ageing Workforce: The maritime industry has an ageing workforce, and a significant percentage of workers are expected to retire in the next few years. According to the International Chamber of Shipping, the average age of a seafarer is around 45 years old, and there is a lack of younger workers to replace them. This is a global issue, with countries such as the Philippines, India, and China, which supply a significant proportion of seafarers, also experiencing an ageing workforce.
Attractive Alternatives: The maritime industry is facing stiff competition from other industries that offer attractive salaries and working conditions. Young people today have a wide range of career choices, and the maritime industry is struggling to compete with industries such as tech, finance, and healthcare. The starting salary for a seafarer is typically lower than that of other industries, and the working conditions, such as long periods away from home, can be unattractive.
Poor Working Conditions: The maritime industry is known for its challenging working conditions, including long working hours, isolation, and limited communication with family and friends. These conditions are not attractive to young people who are seeking a work-life balance. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the working conditions of seafarers, with many being stranded at sea for extended periods due to travel restrictions and crew change issues.
Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic
The International Chamber of Shipping notes that the pandemic has disrupted crew changes, leaving seafarers stranded at sea for extended periods. This has led to a surge in mental health issues, with seafarers reporting feelings of isolation, anxiety, and depression. The pandemic has also resulted in a decrease in the number of new seafarers entering the sector, with many young individuals opting for different career paths.
Solutions to Recruitment and Retention Problems
Attractive Salaries and Benefits: The maritime industry needs to offer competitive salaries and benefits to attract and retain skilled workers. The industry should also consider offering incentives such as bonuses and career progression opportunities.
Technology Upgrades: The maritime industry is investing in technology upgrades to improve working conditions and reduce the workload of seafarers. For example, digitalization has led to the introduction of automated systems that reduce the workload of seafarers and increase efficiency. The industry should continue to invest in technology upgrades and innovations to attract and retain skilled workers.
Training and Education: The maritime industry needs to invest in training and education programs to attract and retain skilled workers. This includes offering apprenticeships, on-the-job training, and continuous learning programs to keep up with the rapidly changing technology and regulations. The industry should also collaborate with educational institutions to promote maritime careers and encourage young people to pursue a career in the industry.
Use of Psychometric tools: Psychometric tools can be a valuable addition to the maritime sector's recruitment and retention strategies. These tools can help assess the skills, abilities, and personality traits of potential candidates, ensuring a better fit for the job and the industry's unique working conditions. Additionally, psychometric tools can be used to identify areas for development and training. A study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that 67% of HR professionals use some form of pre-employment testing, including psychometric assessments, to improve the quality of their hires.
Improved Working Conditions: The maritime industry needs to improve working conditions to attract and retain skilled workers. This includes reducing the workload of seafarers, providing better communication facilities to stay in touch with family and friends, and promoting a healthy work-life balance. The industry should also prioritize the mental health and wellbeing of seafarers, providing access to mental health services and support.
Addressing Crew Change Issues: The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of addressing crew change issues. The industry needs to work with governments, international organizations, and stakeholders to facilitate crew changes and ensure the safety and wellbeing of seafarers.
Recruitment and retention of skilled workers is a significant challenge facing the maritime industry, and it requires a collaborative effort from all stakeholders to address. The industry needs to improve working conditions, offer attractive salaries and benefits, invest in technology upgrades and training, and address crew change issues to attract and retain skilled workers. By addressing these challenges, the maritime industry can continue to play a vital role in facilitating international trade and commerce and contribute to the global economy.
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