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Considering the position of others

Posted: Mon Oct 13, 2008 7:33 pm
by The Dieselduck
Considering the position of others
13 October 2008 Lloyds List

ASK any seafarers of more mature years (and there are a lot of these old chaps around) whether the standard of accommodation aboard ship has improved, or deteriorated. Sad to relate, it will inevitably be the latter for which they will opt. If they have been fortunate enough to sail in new, or almost new, ships, they will almost all suggest that this ‘standard’ tonnage, while it may fulfil every regulation to the letter, is lacking in every sort of ‘generosity’.

These are ships built against a price and the builder will do everything he can to minimise his costs. Everything will be of the cheapest, and that certainly goes for the standard of fit in the crew accommodation. And if this offends both the owners who write the cheques, and the builders who eagerly try to sell their tonnage, so be it, but there is no denying the views of the ‘users’.

Builders take pride in their ‘value for money’ ships which they can offer to shipowners who are probably more interested in performance criteria than the sort of accommodation that will be welded onto the capacious hull. Years ago, I remember going around a new tanker in a Far Eastern yard, which the owner was selling as an ‘economic’ vessel for the carriage of oil. The designers were so proud of the various features which they had incorporated, and which would lower the price of this ship.

A couple of these ideas I recall, was a single (as opposed to two) cranes for handling hoses, and one fewer decks in the accommodation island. There would thus be absolutely no spare accommodation at all, and unless you stood on a step ladder or, if you were very tall, you could not see the horizon ahead from the bridge with the vessel trimmed evenly fore and aft.

For a couple of years afterwards, I sort of kept the name of this ship in my mind in my daily scan of the casualty columns, half expecting to see that she had been involved in a head-on collision, caused by the lack of agility of the watchkeeper, in rushing from wing to wing of the bridge, to see if there was anything under the bow.

The point was that the yard was proud of this utilitarian ship, and the owners queued up to buy it. And several years on, lots of yards are offering such bog-standard vessels, in which the crew spaces will be built to the rulebook, but without a cubic centimetre of extra space. Seafarers will have to share cabins, and on an increasing number of ships, washing facilities. There will be almost no recreational space. We are, in fact, going back 40 years, for in the 1960s there were ships where a great deal of thought, and space, were given over to the crews.

Some of my best friends are naval architects, but I cannot see how they can design ships in which the accommodation is a multi-decked island perched abaft the stern frame right aft, or the same sort of affair right forward atop the forecastle, where it serves as a sort of breakwater behind which the deck cargo can shelter.

I sailed in pre-war cargoships where the crew was in the forecastle, and it wasn’t fun for them. That’s ships which were probably designed 80 years ago! But there again, some of the greatest architects of the day built the 1960s tower blocks — which they regarded as hives for the proletariat — although they knew that they would never ever have to live in them. Therein lies the clue to this regrettable mismatch.

I have written of the UK’s Human Element Advisory Group before, and the way in which it is seeking to draw importance to the human element — the people — as the glue which holds every ship and shipping company together. Our latest meeting, a couple of weeks ago, took in the issue of ‘habitability’. Hosted by ABS, we were fortunate to have some powerful speakers on the subject, specialists in this important but somehow neglected area.

Habitability, said ABS human factors manager Kevin McSweeney, could be defined as “acceptability from a human performance perspective”. And, of course, there is an additional dimension. Unlike shore premises, where many of us still work in badly ventilated and ill-lit conditions, packed like battery hens but who can escape when the day’s work is done, ships are a home to their crews who have to live aboard them for months on end.

So it is good that classification societies like ABS look closely at what Dr McSweeney called the “supporting task requirement” with a range of standards that would make seafarers more comfortable. One sort of felt that not many other people would bother, as all the financial pressures crowded in.

ABS has developed a whole suite of different tools for guaging the suitability of accommodation standards. They looked at noise and vibration and they considered the range of facilities that were available. They considered whether the sort of motions to which the crew was subjected would induce fatigue, and applied a range of international standards. They looked at lighting and its adequacy, and the ambient climate as produced by the air conditioning and ventilation.

ABS offers two notations for operators who are concerned with ensuring their crews have acceptable conditions of habitability: Hab and Hab+. Depressingly, while the offshore industry was hugely interested in habitability criteria, clearly for the advantages in retention and recruitment which a high rating would confer, there was not nearly such a high take-up from the shipping industry. Why am I not surprised?

Human factors engineering is another important aspect, and Dr McSweeney makes a convincing case for getting the specialists in this discipline into the design loop at the earliest time. You cannot enforce its use, and owners can always think of reasons why they should not spend money on HFE, but there are so many reasons why it makes good sense.

Would it not be better to have a ship designed aboard which you could actually get at the equipment for maintenance, without burning holes in bulkheads? Would it not be absolutely splendid if a human factors engineer went over a design for safe accessibility, ensured the logic of controls and labelling? It might even, somebody suggested, strike a blow for the greater use of standardisation. But here again, very few commercial shipping companies were buying into HFE, more’s the pity, despite the obvious advantages. It costs money, although it has the capacity to save lots. But, one muses, you will have to lobotomise the accountants who call the shots before this useful science can be widely applied.

One result of optimising habitability is a more comfortable ship that in some way will minimise the effects of fatigue.

MIND you, there is no universal agreement about what fatigue actually is, and fierce debates in forums such as the IMO about whether you try to ‘manage’ it in some way, or put a few more people aboard our ridiculously lean-manned ships. For the life of me, I cannot honestly believe that it is even remotely acceptable to have a largish, frantically busy ship with a master and mate working watch and watch.

“Two too few” is an excellent slogan thought up by the Nautical Institute, which is trying to campaign on this issue. There is a whole body of supporting evidence from professional casualty investigators who compile great lists of ships that have come to grief with an exhausted watchkeeper asleep in the wheelhouse. But there are administrations that seem determined to fight to the death on behalf of their owners who insist that it is perfectly acceptable and safe to run ships in this way. I think they should be named and shamed.

At the HEAG meeting, the MCA’s Roger Towner sketched something of the labyrinthine strategies that must be followed just to get this important matter debated. I just wonder whether we shall just have to endure some frightful accident involving an exhausted watchkeeper with vast loss of life or pollution, and universal maritime industry shame, before we see progress on this.

And as I have said before, if we are genuinely trying to recruit and retain people who are not actually zombies into commercial shipping, should we not start to behave in a more responsible fashion? But as Towner points out, it is not something a single flag can seek to impose, if it wants to retain any tonnage. It has to be an international prescription, bolted, as the NI suggest, onto the safety of life at sea convention.

We heard from Chris Rowsell, who runs the Confidential Hazardous Incident Reporting Programme, which has just celebrated its fifth birthday. Chirp is different from other schemes in that its director actively follows up the reports, to ensure that there is a result from the near-miss, or other incident. He points out that there are different perceptions of acceptable risk, as viewed from different ships and ship types in different situations. He offers good advice. “Always put yourself in the other person’s position,” he urges.

Perhaps it is a lesson that goes far beyond hazardous incidents, to those involved in ship design, with due regard to habitability, and those drawing up the manning scale for a container feedership.

Re: Crew Shortage

Posted: Thu Oct 16, 2008 3:58 pm
by The Dieselduck
Crew crunch is even more worrying
Fairplay 15 October 2008

SHORTAGE of officers could prove to be of greater significance to shipping than the credit crunch, Jan Morten Eskilt, chairman of OSM Group, told participants at the Marine Money conference in Singapore today. In May this year there were predictions of a shortfall of 84,000 officers globally. It is already at 34,000 – and so far there has been too much talk and not enough action, Eskilt said.

Even though the BIMCO/ISF manpower study released in 2005, and the Drewry/PAL analysis forecast shortages, they both underestimated the full extent of the problem. One reason for this is that more ships than predicted are being delivered from shipyards, and the boom in offshore shipping is also creating new demand for certificated officers. Part of the problem is that shipping has failed to take the issue seriously, he added, with few vessels providing cabins for cadets. More than 4,000 officers will be needed for ships to be delivered in 2009 and 2010, although it's not known where they will be found. Sadly, insurer Gard predicts this will result in under-qualified officers on the bridge, and predicts an increase in maritime accidents of 20-30% attributable to inexperienced crew.

East Anglian push for marine engineers

Posted: Wed Oct 29, 2008 10:53 am
by The Dieselduck
East Anglian push for marine engineers
29 October 2008

East Anglia needs to do more to "grow its own" engineers to support the maritime industries.

That was the message from one leading player this week as marine and port companies combined at a graduate recruitment fair in Norwich for the first time.

SeaVision, Hutchison Ports, Haven Gateway, Seacor, Ship Safe Training Group and Gardline Marine Sciences were among the firms to take part in the UEA recruitment fair in Norwich last week.

More than 2000 students were expected to take part in the fair, which included a range of other regional and national firms, from the professional services to the public sector.

But Yvonne Mason, co-founder of marine group FenderCare and founder of the Mason Trust, said more work was needed to show young people the opportunities available in the maritime industries - not only for undergraduates in engineering, but IT and foreign languages.

Mrs Mason added that collaboration between companies in the sector needed to be closer - and match the partnership between maritime industries in London, the South West and North East.

Mrs Mason said: "Nationally we've got a £40bn maritime sector and there are big players in this region, turning over £100m a year who are short of engineers and who are getting them from out of the county. We need to train our own engineers and employ local people in locally-based but global opportunity jobs."

Seething-based FenderCare's main business is selling new and second hand marine fenders, which prevent boats and ships from being damaged if they collide.

The Mason Trust was set up by Mrs Mason this year after the £12m sale of FenderCare to the marine service company James Fisher in 2005.

The trust offers advice and support to young people to find the right career for them.

"Our role is to take our industry knowledge and reverse the philosophy we used to grow our business - and tell young people 'as we used these skills to grow our business, we want to show you how to grow your career'," Mrs Mason added.

"We want to use the same scoping skills, the same research skills and help young people drill down and find what they want to do."

For more information visit

OSM boss makes clear his views on how to tackle recruitment

Posted: Wed Oct 29, 2008 11:36 am
by The Dieselduck
Refreshing to hear that I am not crazy. It seems that someone else has at least some hankering of what issue affect the lack of seafarers. I think the statement...
“Officers spend three to five years in university. They could just as well become a lawyer, or an economist, financial analyst, or whatever. We have to treat our officers with respect."
“Consider the way people look at seafaring and the way people talk about seafaring. Even in Norway, we have a prime minister who uses the expression ‘drunk as a seaman’.” certainly a very accurate one. Good on him to say something like that, although I am sure the accountants will always win out in the argument back at the shareholder's meeting, well at least till there is nothing left.... oh wait, i guess we are there now. - Martin

OSM boss makes clear his views on how to tackle recruitment crisis
David Osler, 29 October 2008 Lloyds List

THE best way for the shipping industry to tackle its recruitment crisis is to stop treating seafarers badly, a leading Norwegian ship management executive told an industry conference yesterday, writes David Osler.

OSM Group chairman Jan Morten Eskilt made clear that his remarks were addressed to conditions of employment and, most important of all, basic professional respect rather than pay rates.

Despite the fears expressed by other speakers that the global recession of the next few years might lead to a surplus rather than a shortage of qualified crew, Mr Eskilt argued that even in slump conditions, a shortfall of up to 60,000 is still likely unless action is taken to rectify the position.

Speaking to Lloyd’s List after his speech, he argued that shipowners looking to make economies frequently resorted to penny-pinching when it came to crews. Specifically he cited areas such as food and accommodation.

“Officers spend three to five years in university. They could just as well become a lawyer, or an economist, financial analyst, or whatever. We have to treat our officers with respect."

“Consider the way people look at seafaring and the way people talk about seafaring. Even in Norway, we have a prime minister who uses the expression ‘drunk as a seaman’.”

Reaction to the comments among the shipping human resources community was divided between representatives of employers and representatives of employees.

A spokesman for officers’ union Nautilus UK said: “This kind of blunt speaking is long overdue and certainly something we would welcome. That kind of analysis is endorsed by research we have done among our members, which shows how strained loyalty to employers has become in recent years.”

But a Chamber of Shipping representative said: “These comments are completely without foundation. In the UK, officer recruitment is growing and retention rates are high.

“British shipowners respect and observe international standards of living and working conditions for seafarers and ensure that they are treated well.”

Maintaining manpower

Posted: Wed Oct 29, 2008 5:44 pm
by The Dieselduck
Maintaining manpower
22 October 2008 Lloyds List

WHEN everyone is worried about where the next cargo is coming from, and how ships emerging from newbuilding yards are to be paid for, it is excusable if the problems of manpower procurement and retention find themselves on the back burner.

But these human problems will not go away, and the secretary-general of the International Maritime Organization is absolutely right to campaign on this issue. The maritime industry, from top to bottom, has got into a terrible mess over its personnel needs. It is a crisis that people have ignored for too long, with poachers continuing to outnumber the trainers, and it is important to keep it centre stage.

The worry is that the financial crisis will persuade the waverers to put off investment in people, and return to short-term policies. They need reminding that new talent is desperately needed in the industry, both to man ships and to replenish collapsing infrastructure ashore, where age and infirmity, inexperience and robbing-Peter-to-pay-Paul policies are all having their effect.

The IMO can be an effective champion with its campaign, reminding the industry that safety, efficiency and quality do not emerge as a result of regulation, but as a consequence of the recruitment and education of talented individuals.

It can lead, cajole, encourage, and do much to promote awareness, but the IMO, and its member states, can only do so much. In the end, it comes down to industry players behaving responsibly, examining the factors which presently inhibit the recruitment of bright young people and changing many prevalent attitudes to seafarers, which are ludicrously outdated.

Too many marine employers still regard their seafarers almost as a commodity, at best, casual labour which they are anxious to avoid directly employing. Change is a word that seems to be getting a good deal of usage at present; a change in attitude, and a change in actual practice could do much to promote the change in awareness that the IMO is hoping to promote

IMO in global campaign for young officers

Posted: Wed Oct 29, 2008 6:37 pm
by The Dieselduck
IMO in global campaign for young officers
Warning that crewing shortfall is understated
By Marcus Hand, 21 October 2008 Lloyds List

THE International Maritime Organization is to launch a worldwide campaign to attract young people to the shipping industry to avoid the spectre of new ships being laid-up with no officers to crew them.

IMO secretary-general Efthimios Mitropoulos warned that the crewing crisis could be far worse than previous estimates by the Baltic and International Maritime Council and the International Shipping Federation of a shortage of 27,000 qualified officers by 2010.

“The bad news is in accordance with other information from a study that was put to me. In this the figures are far higher, so we have a problem,” Mr Mitropoulos told the audience at the Singapore Maritime Lecture.

“We have a problem when we start taking delivery of the many ships that are now being built all over the world. We may end up with beautiful ships built to the highest IMO standards being laid up idle in port because there are no officers to man them.”

Even with the prospect of newbuilding order cancellations due to the current financial turmoil, Intermanager president Ole Stene warned earlier this month that ships could soon be left idle as there may not be enough competent officers to crew them.

The only way to avoid this problem is to attract more young people to join the shipping industry and train to become officers, he said. “I hope Asia will continue to provide an answer to the problem, but that’s not enough.

“We have to attract young people to the maritime industry, especially promising young people who can be entrusted with the ships of today, which represent assets of very high value,” he said.

In an effort to attract young people to take up a maritime career the IMO secretary-general has been discussing a global campaign with industry representative bodies. While much of the focus on the image of the industry in recent years has been on stressing how important it is to the global economy, this is seen as meaningless to young people, he said.

Instead the campaign will focus on the benefits of a maritime career.
“We are working on the outline of a campaign we would like to launch worldwide to attract young people to maritime professions. I hope it will produce good results,” he said.

No details of how the campaign would work or a timeline for its launch were given.

Shock at Philippines cadet initiative

Posted: Sun Nov 16, 2008 7:11 am
by The Dieselduck
Shock at Philippines cadet initiative
Training would be mandatory to secure a licence
Marcus Hand, 5 November 2008 Lloyds List

THE Philippines stunned the international shipping industry yesterday by revealing a proposal to mandate cadet training as a condition of companies’ operating licences in the country.

“The Philippines Overseas Employment Administration will make cadet berths a requirement for new licencing. It will also be a requirement when manning agents renew licences,” Josephine Francisco, a cluster leader for the Joint Manning Group, told delegates at the Lloyd’s List events Manning & Training conference in Manila.

The JMG is an umbrella group representing local crewing industry bodies in the Philippines, which is the world’s largest supplier of seafarers.

The international industry was seemingly unaware of the plan, and shocked delegates asked for clarification, particularly regarding reapplying for licences.

“The concept of the Human Relations Programme to be part of the requirements of renewal of licence has been accepted in principal by the POEA,” said JMG co-chairman Ericson Marquez.

The industry was given some relief though in that it is yet to be incorporated into the POEA regulations and will be subject to a tri-partite review.

Adding to the confusion, JMG and Filipino Association of Mariners’ Employment chairman Marlon Rono told Lloyd’s List that the proposed measures would not apply to licence renewals for manning agents and principals.

“It’s not yet in place yet. The idea is to require the company to come up with the human resource plan. The plan would be training the seafarers and also starting with the cadetship programme, meaning you have to commit to hire the cadets.”

He noted that it was unfair that a new company could set up in the Philippines, not invest in training, and merely poach staff from companies that had invested in training by paying higher salaries.

However, the plan received sharp criticism from international industry executives as being unworkable and conflicting with flag state regulations.

“I think it is going back to something we got rid of 20 years ago. It is state regulation and the Philippines cannot impose rules on other flag states,” OSM chairman Jan Morten Eskilt said. “I think it is going to harm them, not help the situation.”

A particular issue was that many owners already have flag state requirements for cadet berths under tonnage tax regimes.

“Many owners operate in a tonnage tax system,” one delegate pointed out. “They must give evidence that they hire their [the country of registration] own-nationality cadets. It would be very negative to international shipowners if you put a gun to their head and and say, ‘hire my cadets or you will not have my crew’.”

Another industry source described the system as unworkable, as a manning agent could not force his clients to have cadet programmes.

Only Intermanager president Ole Stene was less negative. “All our members have to have a cadet training programme. We all have to look upon the industry from an international point of view. If we are going to survive we have to do what is needed to have cadets onboard irrespective of nationality,” he said.

Re: Crew Shortage

Posted: Wed Dec 03, 2008 7:53 am
Where are the JOBS,if there is shortage ?
Hi there,I am looking for a job .I have 15 years of experince working in deep sea as 4th engineer,junior engineer & oiler position.worked in USA for 7 years in a Ferry company.
As new Canadian Immigrant I have Transport Canada SVMO Chif Engineer Restricted & Engine room Rating with NO limitation .
Also STCW COURSES & a Valid Medical.

Any help regarding the Job will be appriciated.


Shipping slowdown unable to ease crew shortage

Posted: Wed Nov 18, 2009 10:57 am
by The Dieselduck
Here we go again... These articles are starting to show up again, even if shipping as not given signs of a sure rebound. Should be interesting to see what happens in the next few years, since I am pretty sure, one of the first budgets cut in the cash shortage were the training one at the companies.



Shipping slowdown unable to ease crew shortage
Seafarer training is a critical part of the maritime industry, but it is coming under pressure as ship owners keep their focus on costs.

The world’s shipping industry is heading once again for seafarer shortages, poorly trained officers and an increase in major accidents, according to Anglo Eastern Ship Management’s Pradeep Chalwa.

He reckons the collective memory of the industry is short, just like the crew and officer shortages that will continue, even with deferring of newbuildings and an increase in scrapping.

“Money contributed to education and training has always been meager in our globalised industry when compared to other industries. Any more reduction in training budgets is a blunder that ship owners will pay for with accidents and increased insurance premiums,” he says.

Capt Chalwa, as usual, is right. Ship owners’ attitude to training of seafarers has been poor for years with poaching of staff common. In fact, the prevalence of poaching staff from rivals is one of the reasons for the negative view of training from many shipping companies. Why spend money training officers and crew when the company across the bay will lure them away?

The most important crewing centre in the world is now India, where the training and manning institutions are well regulated to protect seafarers. Unlike in many other countries, a career at sea remains attractive to Indians and the maritime academies are filled with students.

Information technology, which plays a huge role in a ship officer’s life, is firmly established in India and with English the medium of teaching, it is a sought after profession for young Indians with an interest in the sea.

Chalwa believes that India, the Ukraine and former Eastern bloc countries will continue to make in roads into the oil and gas shipping sectors, and the Philippines, Indonesia and China will gain market share in the bulk and container business.

But he warns that even as new seafarers emerge from colleges to begin their lives at sea, they will not be available in numbers sufficient to offset the growing demand for competent crew.

Posted by Greg Knowler on 11/17/2009 8:42:09 PM

Providing a career growth is one way to resolve the growing

Posted: Wed Nov 18, 2009 11:03 am
by The Dieselduck
Mercator carves a dynamic career path in seafaring
Providing a career growth is one way to resolve the growing ship manning shortage

Mercator Shipping Lines India’s second largest private shipping company in terms of tonnage will never be short of seafarers. By offering a vibrant and motivating career path to its floating staff, Mercator Lines has broken with tradition by carving out a strategy to retain and attract the finest talent in the field in a bid to extend unmatched services to its customer.

With a fleet strength of 16 (4 tankers and 12 bulk carriers), Mercator Lines does the entire manning on their own. 12 of the ships are with its Singapore subsidiary and 4 with the Indian parent company. Over and above they own 4 dredgers and 5 tankers. Mercator boasts of having the youngest dry bulk fleet in the world with an average of 4 years.

“Whenever any seafarer joins us we offer a career path that helps the incumbent in improving himself by virtue of training and experience on board our vessels,” stated Capt Kowshik Kuchroo, Vice President – Strategy of Mercator Lines. “We advise our seafarers on how to clear their exams. We are very aggressive on promoting our own staff on board our vessel and we show great flexibility on family carriage. If justified we let a second mate or third mate also to carry his wife. Our recruitment policy for our offices is to employ primarily those who have served on our ships.”

He goes on to explain that the company is undertaking its own fleet management since the last 8 to 9 months and achieved retention of over 85%. He informed that a large number of cadets have risen from the ranks and are now 3rd engineer and several cadets are now chief officers. All of them are still serving with the company.

“We have contract completion bonus and rejoining bonus,” adds Capt Sridhar Fleet Personnel – Superintendent of Mercator Lines. “We are inducting chief engineers from our ships as superintendent in our offices when they leave the sea. We also encourage our senior masters and chief engineers to conduct audits on board our vessels for which we train them and remunerate them separately.”

H. K. Mittal, the CMD of the company says, “We plan setting up a training institute jointly with ASP Ship Management and Chowgules. To be christened MAC Marine Institute we will initially enrol 250 students. Our standard will be much higher than what is prescribed by the administration. We will absorb all the boys into our company but we will in no way compromise on our quality.

All Mercator ships have VIDEO TELL computer based training (CBTs). Before joining the ship all senior staff members are made to undergo familiarisation training which is held at the company’s cost. Two ships with the subsidiary have Filipinos crew. But as the company is in an expansion mode they are on the lookout for more Indians. Even though the company is enlisting experienced senior staff, their policy to promote their own staff internally will always supersede.

Posted by Joseph Fonseca

Indian Marine Officers migrating to foreign shi

Posted: Thu Jan 07, 2010 12:25 pm
by The Dieselduck
Indian Marine Officers migrating to foreign ships

Indian shipping companies feel the heat as more and more Indian marine officer, who are in short supply continue to migrate to foreign ships where they are not burdened with taxes.

The flight of Indian marine officers to foreign shipping companies has become a cause of worry for Indian shipping companies who are already plagued by shortage of officers. Recently, the Indian National Shipowners Association (INSA) requested the Ministry of Shipping, Government of India to exempt Indian ship staff from seafarer’s tax being the crux of this problem and Indian officers who serve on foreign ships are exempt from paying taxes.
“Seafarers working on Indian ships who do not complete 183 days at sea are being subjected to income tax,” explained S. S. Rangnekar, CEO of INSA. “This places them at a great disadvantage with other Indians serving on foreign ships who are not so taxed. Even if foreign vessels were to continue trading on the Indian coast, Indian seafarers on these vessels still get exempted from income tax. This has resulted in seafarers on Indian vessels preferring to sail with foreign shipping companies.”

“We are compelled to compromise on the quality of seafarers since trained and experienced seafarers have been moving to foreign shipping companies,” said Yudhisthir Khatau, Managing Director of Varun Shipping. “The quality of marine officers being employed on Indian vessels is falling, but the situation is not grave at the moment.”

“Because of the shortage we have to request our colleagues who are serving on our ships to stay a little longer,” informed S Hajara, CMD of SCI and President of INSA. “Besides, those on leave are being asked to resume earlier. Now with more ships joining the fleet we are being forced to take senior marine officers on ‘contract’ basis. We do take older retired staff as the Director General of Shipping has made a concession for engaging such officers of up to 65 years of age and even older on a case to case basis provided the person is medically fit.”

Marine officer shortage is a worldwide phenomenon there does not appear to be any quick solution. Companies who are going in for acquisitions are faced with manning problem. Training more officers seems to be the only long time solution but it will take some to fill in the shortage gap according to Capt SC Sood, Managing Director of IMS Ship Management (P) Ltd. He explained that most companies are trying to make at least two training slots available on board their ship. But there is no way for companies which train the officer cadets to compel them to continue serving with their company after finishing their training.

Nations should do more to protect seafarers' human rights

Posted: Thu Mar 18, 2010 3:21 pm
by The Dieselduck
Nations should do more to protect seafarers' human rights
(3/18/2010) The following is a statement from InterManager:


(MUMBAI) -- Shortages of skilled and qualified seafarers could have an immense impact on the global economy and are being exacerbated by the negative impact of crew criminalization and the escalating problem of global piracy, warns InterManager, the international trade association for the ship management
industry whose members represent more than 200,000 seafarers.

"Legislative measures following an accident or incident have made the seafarer increasingly susceptible to criminalization, and a rising incidence of piracy has led to correspondingly high personal risks," Brian Martis, Chairman of the InterManager's Criminalization Committee told delegates at today's India Manning & Training Conference in Mumbai.

In addition, "A one-sided view of public interest coupled with political expediency has severely curtailed the human rights of the seafarer," he said. "These factors have had a direct, negative impact on crew retention and the natural replenishment of the work-force: potential recruits are hesitant to take up a career at sea. The current shortage of skilled and qualified seafarers - already a significant crisis in the maritime industry - is further exacerbated."

He continued: "Shipping being the prime mover of goods worldwide (90% of trade), is critical to international commerce and development. The seafarer is critical to shipping. There is already a crisis in marine manpower supply with shortages estimated to continue for some years to come. The legislations in recent years concerning pollution and the restrictions on personal freedom as a result of the 'War on Terror' have combined to make seafaring unattractive. Retention and fresh recruitment are directly affected. The eventual impact the global economy and the environment cannot be underestimated."

Mr Martis pointed out that recent studies by BIMCO have identified 14 cases of seafarers' detainment that took place during an 11 year period involving
12 coastal states. These cases involved lengthy detainment and "questionable" applications of law and resulted in no charges.

He cautioned: "The unfair treatment meted out to the officers concerned resonates very strongly with the seafaring community both locally and internationally. A sea-going career with such additional risks to personal freedom and/or safety dissuades young men and women who are about to decide their future careers. I know of several officers who have indicated they will discourage their children from taking up a career at sea."

InterManager has played an instrumental role in a number of high-profile cases of criminalization recently including the Hebei Spirit and the Cormorant.

Mr Martis informed conference delegates that recent cases have shown a marked tendency for seafarers to be:
. criminally prosecuted for maritime accidents beyond their control
. criminally prosecuted for maritime accidents where there has been some negligence, regardless of the fact that such negligence is not considered criminal in the maritime industry
. detained indefinitely within the country that is bringing charges against them
. held as "security" or "material witnesses" till the ship owner or P&I Club pays up
. held in custody without any access to legal assistance or without being formally convicted of a criminal offence
. denied shore leave for arbitrary reasons

Urging the shipping world to tackle the issue of unfair criminalization, Mr Martis proposed: "2010 is the Year of the Seafarer and what better way to pay homage than to contribute towards improving his working conditions and protecting his human rights?"

MINIMUM crewing scales are too low

Posted: Fri May 21, 2010 7:51 am
by The Dieselduck
MINIMUM crewing scales are too low and should be revised upwards, according to Anglo-Eastern Ship Management Services.

“We strongly believe that the minimum manning scales need to be reviewed and the scales must be revised upwards and not downwards anymore,” said Pradeep Chawla, director quality assurance and training, based in Hong Kong.

Capt Chawla was addressing a seminar in London on the Problem of the Global Shortage of Seafarers and the role of the Shipping Industry through CSR activities, organised by the Nippon Foundation and Japan International Transport Institute.

He told delegates that the increase in workload on ships’ crews mean that the existing crewing scales are no longer realistic, even though a rise could exacerbate the officer shortage.

“Seafarers have been burdened with many new tasks over the last two decades. The manning scales have not looked deeply enough on the consequences on watchkeeping and safety standards onboard.” He added that the shortage of properly qualified and motivated professionals is worse than the numbers show.

Capt Chawla told the conference that the time may have come to re-introduce Pursers or Administrative officers to take on some of the mountains of paperwork that senior officers now face and risk distracting them from their key operational roles. “Seafarers want to do an honest job and generally are hardworking professionals. The call that we hear is that enough is enough. They cannot take on additional tasks without additional manpower.”

Apart from the increasing strains and associated risks for seafarers Capt Chawla suggested that the widespread perception of long hours of work is not presenting a good image for the industry in its efforts to recruit young people.

The Anglo-Eastern director said that his company has adopted a number of measures to retain officers, including offering long-term employment contracts, which has boosted its retention rate to over 85%, free unlimited crew email with broadband being installed on every vessel. “These things are easy to provide but they make a big difference,” he said.

Manning crisis looms

Posted: Fri May 21, 2010 8:04 am
by The Dieselduck
Manning crisis looms

The Nippon Foundation and the Japan International Transport Institute (JITI) held a seminar in London last week to present the findings of a new study that they jointly undertook on the future global supply and demand of seafarers projects.
The study finds that by 2020, the maritime industry will need to recruit an additional 32,153 officers and 46,881 ratings above 2010 figures to meet growing needs.

The study concludes that to achieve this, the industry also needs to tackle problems of attraction and retention of newcomers to the profession, and makes recommendations on how these targets could be achieved.

The study titled ‘Study on the future global supply and demand for seafarers and possible measures to facilitate stakeholders to secure a quantity of quality seafarers’ was presented on 11 May at IMO headquarters in London by JITI president Makoto Washizu.

“How”, he asked, “are we going to secure the necessary number of young people for the future security of the maritime industry?”

The seminar, which included a special address by IMO secretary general Efthimios Mitropoulos, also discussed how a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) approach could be adopted to improve working conditions and boost the image of the seafaring profession, and help bring in the high-calibre recruits so urgently needed. Some 150 delegates from the maritime industry, governments and academia attended.

The Steering Committee, chaired by Mr Washizu, which carried out the study and was formed in response to increasing concerns about seafarer shortages, was composed of academics and representatives from the maritime industry. They looked closely at the reasons for the discrepancy between supply and demand and found that a mixture of economic and public perception factors were responsible. While the recent global economic crisis had temporarily affected world cargo movement, projections for industry growth over the coming ten years were still high.

Re: Crew Shortage

Posted: Fri May 21, 2010 8:12 am
by The Dieselduck
That Sinking Feeling
Domestic mariner shortages to rise in the short term, especially in the face of an improving economy and a federal SIP program that remains in turmoil. It might not have to be that way.

It is supposed to be a happy time at the nation’s six state maritime academies. Starched dress whites, highly polished shoes and high-pressure hats will be the uniform-of-the-day at graduation ceremonies stretching from Buzzard’s Bay to the Bronx, the Great Lakes and all the way to the left coast, too. And, for those about to receive diplomas, marine licenses and/or officer’s commissions in the various armed services, it probably is. Nevertheless, the mood has to be markedly less upbeat inside the beltway where U.S. Maritime Administration officials must be scratching their heads as to what to do about the declining licensing rates for academy graduates. Or, maybe they are not.

Despite their collective best efforts, the nation’s merchant marine officer training machine is not keeping pace with the demand for sufficient numbers of competent licensed personnel. There are a lot of reasons for that metric – some of that emanates from the very nature of the times that we live in – but it is also likely that MARAD could be doing more, as well. And, assuming the status quo here in this country does not change very much in the near term, pressure coming from the international community could bring the entire system tumbling down. It’s not hard to see why:

* Gloomy Statistics Tell Only Half the Story

Graduation and mariner licensing data for the class of 2009 is now available and the numbers are anything but encouraging. Aside from the 100 percent licensing (as required by regulations) at Kings Point, the percentage of maritime academy graduates who opt to take the “license” track continues to fall. According to the spreadsheets, the cumulative licensing rate for state maritime academy graduates has fallen to just 57 percent for 2009, from 59 percent in 2008 and again down from 61 percent in 2007. The trend – although getting a short reprieve from the dismal shipping economy for the past 18 months – literally flies in the face of a critical worldwide shortage of qualified mariners.

There’s more. A minor increase in the number of total maritime academy graduates produced just 29 more licenses than were recorded in 2008. The 2010 statistics are unofficial, but preliminary numbers obtained from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy show little change in the trend. With only two state maritime academies boasting 100 percent licensing for their graduates (comprising a mere 10 percent of the totals), MARAD had hoped to improve on those numbers, partly by doubling Student Incentive Payments (SIP) to qualifying cadets. That financial aid comes with caveats, however. Students in the SIP Program receive quarterly financial subsistence for a maximum of 4 years. In exchange for this, SIP students incur a national service obligation. The Maritime Service compliance System (MSCS) track students participating in the SIP Program, who must then fulfill their national service obligation.

Unfortunately, the SIP program has been in turmoil because the federal government changed the amount that was to be awarded to each recipient, but the amount allotted for the program didn’t change. In the Fall of 2009, the data for total number of SIP cadets at the state schools was just 143, with Merchant Marine Reserve cadets more than doubling (312) that number. On Tuesday, Rear Admiral Richard Gurnon, President of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, told MarPro that as many as 63 cadets – most of those in the MMR program already – were waiting for an opportunity to participate in the SIP program. Gurnon says that the key to increasing numbers in the license track programs hinges, in part, on increasing the availability of SIP to deserving cadets but also on changing how and when that money is made available.

* Beyond the Money

In 1980, Mass. Maritime produced 175 licensed graduates with a total class representing just 75 percent of today’s numbers. In 2009, and despite the increased enrollment, only 122 cadets chose to take the license exams. The migration of curriculum at many of the maritime academies happened gradually over the years, partly as a way to survive in an era when ship billets were scarce and graduates found it increasingly difficult to make a living at sea. As the need for mariners once again became more robust, the corresponding migration back into license programs has not kept pace. There are a lot of reasons for that metric and not all of them involve money.

Today, virtually every cadet who opts for a license and wants to go to sea in one capacity or another can find a job. But, not everyone wants to go to sea anymore. Instead, shoreside programs such as stationary powerplant operations and industrial safety/environmental careers are gaining increasing popularity. Indeed, the safety and environmental graduates are finding themselves in particularly high demand at this moment, especially with the ongoing oil spill crisis in the Gulf.

More than one year ago, then MARAD Chief Sean Connaughton said, “The job market for merchant marine officers remains robust. There is a growing, worldwide demand for fully-trained merchant marine officers and licensed mariners.” The dismal world economy, highlighted amply by the crash of the containership market (laying up as much as 13 percent of the world’s boxships), put a dent in those claims. As shipping improves – and it will – Connaughton’s remarks will again ring true.

* The Easy Way Out?

Exactly 30 years ago, cadets at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy had very little to think about beyond whether they intended to go “deck” or “engine.” Today, that’s no longer the case. Students can choose from as many as six majors, some of which allow them to opt out of all but one of four training cruises, not only saving the $3,300 in costs associated with that trip, but also going out to secure well-paying internships ashore. A new generation of kids, accustomed to having it “their way” from a nice car to drive and a style of living that past generations of cadets can barely imagine, are choosing not to spend long periods of their college days away from home in a training regimen that will eventually lead them to a nomadic life of 75 days (or more) at sea before earning any time off.

The hardship of going to sea has always been there. Notwithstanding the boasts of starting salaries of $75,000+ for Third Mates and Engineers, the financial lure of the ships is also fading rapidly. That $75,000 doesn’t come close to buying what similar work, paying $50,000 in 1980, allowed. Shoreside positions are now reportedly matching and eclipsing these numbers. And then, there is the increasingly rigorous nature of the path to getting that marine license to contend with.

The pressures of new STCW training requirements are well known in the maritime community, but there is also another factor affecting the recruitment of cadets into the license track programs. In a conversation with RADM Gurnon just this week, he reported that the passage rate of license exams at Mass. Maritime – in fact at all the schools – had been trending down for some time. In fact, only 74 percent of those that took the exams this year passed on the first sitting, down from an 82 percent success rate the year before.

Interestingly, it wasn’t too long ago that the U.S. Coast Guard had been chided for making the exams too easy and many old-timers lamented the elimination of the essay portion of the testing. Gurnon reported that, more and more, cadets were unwilling to subject themselves to the embarrassment of failing the exams in what he characterized as “a very public setting,” especially when there are easier routes to graduation that don’t involve four training cruises sleeping in close proximity to 700 other cadets. Also according to Gurnon, the Coast Guard’s method of random delivery of the examination questions has gotten (a.) much more sophisticated and (b.) far greater in breadth. It is, apparently, no longer a “slam dunk.”

* STWC, IMO and Sea Time; Oh My…

For Gurnon and his colleagues at the other five state academies, it would be nice if the obstacles described above were the only things that they collectively have to deal with. It turns out that the United Nations and its maritime arm, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) will also have something to say about how, when and how long it will take to educate future American mariners. And, it will be through the global protocol of the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) and its various many amendments that they will apparently try to apply that pressure.

Already, it is nearly impossible to cram a busy training schedule into a traditional, four-year college experience. Mass. Maritime, for example, operates for about 11 months per year, with the annual training cruise eating up about two months of that time. But, the IMO wants American schools to come into compliance with International standards that require one year of sea time, instead of the six months that the U.S. cadet typically experiences. The change, if implemented, says Gurnon, would probably make the license-track degrees a five-year slog. Gurnon minced no words on Monday when he said, “I would hope that the U.S. Coast Guard would recognize that STCW has not translated into increased safety at sea or a better quality merchant officer.”

The proposed increase in sea time for U.S. cadets is not the only change that will be in store for those who hope to become professional mariners. A host of training changes are now being considered at the highest level of the IMO and the U.S. Coast Guard. The inclusion of new protocols, mostly reflecting changes in technology and the recognized need for additional safety training such as firefighting, could add to the undergraduate course load. Gurnon contends that there is no room left in the existing timeframe for the increased credit hours.

Today – unlike thirty years ago – it is unlikely that the newly minted graduate will be able to leave the graduation ceremony and walk directly up the gangway. That’s because the training required by LNG carriers, tankers, offshore drilling and a raft of other specialties make what Gurnon describes as “the ambidextrous deck officer,” a thing of the past. Cadets choosing to become deck officers at the age of 21 very soon going to be buttonholed into one class of vessel. Changing from containerships to, say, the LNG trades is going to involve prolonged, mid-career and expensive training. It’s a lot to ask of anyone these days, especially when one sector of the market can collapse so quickly, as the containership market did in the recent recession. Think about it: Fully 25 percent of those officers lost their jobs virtually overnight.

* Reversing the Trend: Sweetening the Pot

For his part, Rick Gurnon is certain that minor changes in the way that money is allotted to maritime academy cadets could translate into real increases in the numbers of students that opt to take the license track. Currently, MARAD targets those students who are already at the academies for SIP awards. Conversely, Gurnon has long advocated that the funding should be allotted before they get to college, in NROTC-style recruiting efforts. He argues that students who are already there and halfway through the process are less interested in signing up for a commitment that would virtually mirror that being enforced at Kings Point, but affording only a fraction of the money being showered on USMMA students. In what amounted to tacit agreement that he was right, MARAD last year doubled the annual payments to qualifying cadets from $4,000 to $8,000.

A federal government OMB report states that just 29 of the 370 state maritime academy graduates in 2005 accepted tuition aid stipends requiring post-graduate commitments for maritime industry employment and active military reservist status. Arguably, those numbers could very well reflect the hesitancy of maritime academy cadets to commit to a military option in time of war and the uncertain times that we live in. But, others maintain that the stipends given to these state maritime academy students are far too low to compensate for the obligation, even with the recent increases.

MMA’s President insists, “I see absolutely no evidence that our cadets are not willing to serve. Many of these kids accept commissions to serve anyway, without the stipends. The fact of the matter is that the stipend program involves a difficult and lengthy documentation period.” He went on to say that were the federal financial aid program to be run in a similar fashion to that set up at King’s Point (where the recipients of four-year scholarships are screened in high school) then every federal financial aid dollar would be spoken for, and well before any of these cadets started college. To back all of that up, and as this article went online, he claimed to have 60 cadets on the waiting list for SIP money.

Every single student at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy earns a degree, a license and a commission in the armed services that requires some commitment. As the gold standard for what those federal dollars should produce, state schools should aspire to at least close that gap in the near term. The wider and more efficient distribution of SIP payments at the state academies is one way to get there. In fact, recipients of stipends are more likely to gravitate to Military Sealift Command positions, where they are particularly desperate for qualified officers. Finally, the OMB admits that a state academy graduate is 36 percent less expensive to train than his/her King’s Point (USMMA) counterpart, while producing almost 70 percent of the country’s licensed officers for merchant service. In other words: a real bargain for the taxpayers and arguably, one place that the federal government ought to be increasing its investment.

* Equilibrium: Mass. Maritime finds solid middle ground

As graduation looms large in the porthole at the Taylor’s Point campus of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, RADM Rick Gurnon is always looking for ways to do it better and squeeze more out the nation’s oldest continuously operating maritime academy. That’s not to say he isn’t happy with some things. He told MarPro on Monday that, “I’m both pleased and surprised that our class of 2010 has about the same ratio of license to non-license graduates. Right now, yes, I’m happy with the mix.” He went on to say that it costs about 1.5 times as much to educate the license-track cadet as it does someone headed down the environmental or facilities management career path. He added, “Student tuition and fees comprise the largest portion of our revenue stream. We are doing as much as we can with what we have, on the license side.”

Gurnon’s opinions, especially in his position as head of the second largest of all of the seven academies, might seem puzzling. On Monday, we asked him what U.S. Maritime Administrator David Matsuda might think of his positions on SIP payments and his nominal ‘happiness’ with producing a graduating class, only 53 percent of which choose to get licenses, while at the same using an expensive asset like the training ship – on loan from MARAD. Without hesitation, Gurnon responded, “The Maritime Administrator gets his money’s worth – and then some. MMA fuels that ship, paints and maintains it and uses virtually free labor to do it. It is then ready and available for times of national emergency.”

We contacted MARAD to get their take on the current state of affairs, but the requested information did not arrive in time for the release of this e-column. There is one thing that lawmakers, regulators, maritime academy faculty and cadets and industry can probably agree on: the ongoing shortage of qualified merchant officers, notwithstanding the sour but on-the-mend economy, is very real. It threatens to worsen in the near term as STCW requirements all but eliminate the hope for unlicensed mariners to come up through the hawse pipe. From the American perspective, some simple fixes applied to how we make can make it more attractive to those who might consider a career at sea will do wonders. On the other hand, and if the IMO/STCW gang has there way, the situation will likely get a lot worse in the short term. Either way, it won’t be long until we find out why. –

View the 2008 Maritime Academy statistics by clicking: ... ats08.html

View the 2009 Maritime Academy statistics by clicking: ... Grads.html

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Joseph Keefe is the leading commentator of He can be reached at MaritimeProfessional is the largest business networking site devoted to the marine industry. Each day thousands of industry professionals around the world log on to network, connect, and communicate.