Burning Need for Transformation of Seafarers: The Pillars of Maritime 2050

01 December 2021


​The world in 2050 will differ significantly from what it is today, and Maritime 2050s vision is one of the major factors driving this transition. The shipping industry has reached the pinnacle for the need of sustainable innovations and the vision of Digitalization and De-Carbonization of environment is the need of the hour to make the future sector greener, safer, digital, and more efficient enabler of international trade.

Digitalization is a known game changer throughout every other industry and automated systems that once looked like a dream are now becoming a reality. Along with artificial intelligence, industry will open up infinite possibilities in bringing the shipping, cargo handling and supply logistics segments closer together. Digitalizing will enable vessel operators and other players to gain clarity from data, save business time & costs, increase productivity, and optimization of operations while maximizing the use of available resources.

Likewise, maritime sector is a source of 2.2% of global greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to a country the size of Germany. Environmental awareness is no longer a conversation but an obligation. IMO’s main strategy towards reduction of GHG emissions will require us to upgrade into a greener business and aim towards existing movement “Getting to Zero Coalition” while still making profit by adopting new strategies in getting commercially viable deep-sea vessels powered by zero emission fuels.

But let’s not forget that the phrase ‘The Maritime Industry’ is merely a shorthand for the plethora of 1.8 million human tales that make up the sector’s workforce.

Maritime’s success has always been heavily dependent on the people involved in it. That story will not change along the future. What will change are many of the roles that people will be engaged in, both at sea and on shore. The shipping sector will need various technological and environment friendly innovations. As a result, the seafarer’s job profile is expected to change quantitatively and qualitatively. With these enormous transitions lined up over the coming years, industry will face challenges in SHAPING, ACQUIRING and RETAINING its seafarers: the pillars of Maritime 2050.

Digitalization is soon to come as automation in ports & ships; enhanced network & connectivity, block-chain technology in logistics and in other niche applications where it will augment human control, not replace it. Therefore, a new category of technologically trained, diversified & resilient workforce will become a necessity.

With more importance being placed on core competencies and how the skill sets of the world’s seafarers will evolve, committee of Human Element Training & Watch-keeping (HTW) will have to RE-SHAPE the education framework of seafarers with key topics mainly automations, data analytics, information communications technology (ICT), resilience, green growth and specialized multi-skilling programs for eco-friendly fuel ships to ensure seafarers are future-ready. Mapping career paths and incorporating skill development into training regimes will allow a proactive approach to career planning and support easy cross-sector mobility.

According to a survey conducted by the Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, with smart and eco-friendly ships in shipping industry, the number of technical personnel required was 35,549 as of 2018. The shortage rate was 2.6%; and 49,000 people are required by 2028 in their sector. This indicates, the demand for new skilled workforce in the sector is expected to increase manifold with the advancements planned for ahead.

Meanwhile, latest BIMCO/ICS Manpower Report anticipated potential shortage of almost 150,000 officers by 2025, adding to the hard hit on entry level of seafarers because of pandemic. Early retirement and migration of seafarers to distinct sectors is a new trend that has accelerated throughout the epidemic.

As per various studies, although there will be a shortage of seafarers but only in terms of acquiring skilled seafarers groomed to meet the future demands, which can be attributed to two main factors; inability to motivate talents to choose seafaring as lifelong career option and retention of those and existing seafarers. As we proceed towards digital age, the shipping industry will not only compete with one another but also with other industries for competent and diversified talents. Thus, the concern isn’t just about numbers but also about resilient seafarers with higher skill set.

To address the above challenges, there is a dire need of RE-BRANDING the image of vaguely invisible maritime industry to the diverse pool of talents worldwide. The stakeholders must unite on a common platform to spread awareness of how shipping industry is the backbone of global economy and trade, and also clear misconceptions the seafarers are alleged to face in the sector. But most importantly, revealing to the world our industry’s remarkable future towards digitalization and environmental de-carbonization, which can be crucial in inspiring young talent.

Nevertheless, the question remains, how can we encourage the fresh and up-skilled seafarers to stay in the industry along the journey towards 2050 and even beyond?

This is where seafarer’s challenges need to be addressed. Governments worldwide must recognize the important role seafarers play in facilitating the day to day lives of people as well as the global economy. Even during unprecedented times when the whole world stopped, seafarers kept moving. They have a right to be home on time after work, to be vaccinated as soon as possible and stay protected from the underlying threat of piracy. Basic needs have to be RE-INFORCED predominantly job security even after automation kicks in, improved safety, expedited career growth and mental well-being. Seafarers must also be involved in introducing necessary changes at shipboard, company and regulatory levels, to achieve a well-phased-out transition towards Maritime 2050.

Altogether, I vision the future towards 2050, as an industry of transition, moving from analogue to digital, carbon emissions to zero emissions and happy seafarers to even more skilled, diverse, resilient and content seafarers. Therefore, the changes in reforming the workforce of future is indispensable. In our industry 2050 is just one ship-generation away, so we must act now to relish the approaching dynamic Maritime 2050 together.

Source: Global Maritime Forum