2012 part 1 – Got Skills?

I get the feeling that the Marine industry is, has been, under the
constant strain of “noise”, “heat” and “pressure”. Its kind of
comforting for us engineer aboard, since this is our career, our kind of
environment. We thrive in these conditions, and we are well position to
weather the continuous “economic lows” on the prognosticator’s radar
screens. Well figuratively speaking anyways.

As I have done for a couple of years now (read 2010, 2011),
I’ve summed up my feelings of the industry for the upcoming year.
Nobody seemed to call “bullshit” on me yet, so I may not be off the mark
completely. Please excuse my presumption that you care to hear what a
run of the mill shipboard engineer thinks about the industry, the
Canadian one in particular.

Last year in Canada, was a scary time for some,
although for us engineers, I don’t think the jitters were entirely
warranted. I continue to get vibes from all three Oceans and inland
waterways, that our craft is still very much important, and in demand.
The main concern I estimate was more about people staying in their
positions, to face the uncertainty around them.

Overall
people are retiring, although for some, this has been stretched to
accommodate the downward spiral of their retirement portfolios. Like
usual the companies are keeping a tight rein on spending, meaning what
little investment was made in training and rearing engineers several
years ago “in the heyday”, has long since disappeared, meaning that
established engineer’s value continues to inch up.

I
understand from various sources, that this past year and currently,
training intakes are down for marine engineers, and upgrading is also
limited. All these signs point to a tight market for employers, which
means a whole change in dynamics for the workforce in Canada, and I
believe around the world. Take for instance in the UK, after a brief
“scare”, educational funding has been assure, for the time being, to training cadets.

In
Canada, I sense wages being held back due to union contracts, strangely enough. An
experienced engineer might be able to get more for his skills then what
has been negotiated in previous contracts. I see various employers
lowering their hiring criteria to get bodies into positions critical to
their operations – more problematic ashore, but also at sea. I would
characterize the situation as a tight one for employers looking to fill
positions; and worsening over the last year. I suspect we will see a
significant double impact from the retiring engineers departure,
especially in central Canada.

In this market, mariners
have long held their positions and conditions, and they, and their
employers, have grown accustomed to these conditions. As you may be
aware, the marine industry is not a static one, and I believe Canadian
employers will struggle to adapt to the new realities – that experienced
mariners are no longer highly trained and experienced, plentiful,
desperate and easily manipulated.

to be continued…

This is a 3 part series, examining my expectations for the Canadian marine
industry in 2012, as it affects us marine engineers, and other professional
seafarers. It is based on feedback,
discussions from my websites, real world observations and discussions,
and media reports.  

This article has 1 Comment

  1. Part of the reason Transport Canada and Public Works is getting out of inspections is that they can't hire the engineers they need at the wages the government is willing to pay.You can;t hire a 1st class ticket with 30 years experience on a 3rds wages.

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