Page 7 of 9

Seafaring a career of opportunities

Posted: Sun Aug 01, 2010 1:31 pm
by The Dieselduck
Seafaring a career of opportunities, Encouraging more youth into seafaring

In keeping with the “Go To Sea” campaign of the International Maritime Organisation for promoting seafaring, the Indian administration as part of the National Maritime Day celebrations held seminars at different metros of India on 1st April 2010 on the theme “Seafaring, a career of opportunities”.

What has got the industry and the administration worried is the growing attraction amongst youth for the glamour and high paid salaried jobs in the IT, management, finance and other shore based profession with their high life style and comforts. This has led to a fall in the number of youngsters entering the seafaring profession.

Speakers giving presentations at the Mumbai conference were quick to point out the excellent career opportunities that await experienced seafarers when they leave the sea. It was pointed out that opportunities in the maritime fields were growing. Prominently these included ship manning and management, offshore, ports, shipping, dredging, ship yards, designing. Those who did take up jobs in such organisations could do so after a stint of 10 to 15 years of sailing and having become master mariners, chief engineers or even second officers / engineers.

Capt Navin Passey, Managing Director of Wallem Ship Management Pvt Ltd pointed out that seafarers don’t want to spend a long time at sea. “They want to grab the masters and chief engineers post as soon as possible in order to be with their families. Hence at Wallems’ we ensure that seafarers go out to sea for short durations. We have created a work culture with options – work life balance – similar to the software industry. Our seafarers have access to facebook, tweeter, MySpace, etc., SMS and voice calls, etc. so that while sailing they can keep in touch with their young ones at home and talk to them in the confines and comforts of their cabins.”

Y. Khatau, managing director of Varun Shipping Ltd. lamented about the total lack of training for those seafarers leaving the sea. There was an urgent need to provide training to those wanting to pick up jobs ashore and this would prove to be a boon for shipping in India.

A women entrepreneur from the audience mentioned about the significant role women could play in seafaring and that they could form a large portion of the seafaring community if encouraged. Though the response from women joining the seafaring profession has not been good it was felt that providing concessions for women, better amenities on board and other facilities could play an important role in getting better response from the young ladies into the profession.

“They have an all women team on the Air India aircraft flying the Delhi London route. Similarly, why not there be ships run by all ladies crew,” commented another lady. “Now that the Indian administration is headed by a lady viz. Lakshmi Venkatachalam, who is the Director General of Shipping, government of India, we could bank on her in having more women power into seafaring?”

Re: Crew Shortage

Posted: Mon Aug 02, 2010 7:28 am
by JK
Y. Khatau, managing director of Varun Shipping Ltd. lamented about the total lack of training for those seafarers leaving the sea. There was an urgent need to provide training to those wanting to pick up jobs ashore and this would prove to be a boon for shipping in India.

This is so true.

Re: Crew Shortage

Posted: Tue Aug 03, 2010 4:26 pm
by The Dieselduck
The Nautical Institute has a report database of real cases of fatigue. Makes for an interesting read, certainly some of us can relate to matters on our ships. Probably does not help the crew shortage thingy.

You can find the Fatigue Forum at

Seafarers’ shortage a myth!

Posted: Fri Jan 07, 2011 8:58 am
by The Dieselduck
Seafarers’ shortage a myth!
by Joseph Fonseca from ... myth!.aspx
Jan 03, 2011, 2:09PM EST

There is no shortage of seafarers, only qualified ones according to ship owners and manning agents

More and more ship owners and manning agents deny there being any seafarers’ shortage. According to a ship owner, those who continue to harp about it are merely indulging in empty rhetoric; these have evidently mistaken the ‘hull for the rudder’. The successful manning agents say that the business of manning and ship management, calls for a commitment and greater support for the floating staff. They advocate a more humane approach to their difficulties and problems through bonding and good relationship so that a sense of belonging is created.

“I heard a lot about there being a shortage of seafarers ever since I came into this field 30 years ago,” saysDavid C. C. Koo Managing Director of Valles Steamship Co., Ltd. “But the fact is that we are still operating ships. So where is the shortage that you are talking about? If there was a shortage then ships would have been laid up. But have you seen any lay ups occurring because of non-availability of crew? I don’t understand this terminology about there being 'shortage ofseafarers' at all."
He however confirms a shortage of qualified seafarers. It is necessary to really raise the quality of the seafarers he insists. Also it is important to have the crew better equipped with knowledge. “People who talk about shortages are the ones who at the same time cannot find training berths,” he points out. “Why is it so? If they worry about crew shortage they should do something to increase the training berths. If you need to have training imparted then you need to have space for training slots. Whenever Valles Steamship went in for new buildings extra cabins were always included.”
“When we initially started our manning operation in India in 2000 with five vessels,” says Capt Salvatore d’Amico, Fleet Manager of d’Amico Dry, “People told us not to stay on in India because the market was bad. There was a big shortage. But we insisted on staying here and continued to do so. Now instead of five vessels we are managing 80 vessels. We have 3,000 people now and we are investing in them. If one works as a professional and believe in professional Indian you can do well. At d’Amico we believe in commitment and not just being compliant. We strive to be a symbol of safety and quality for all our customers in the shipping industry.”

Wallem Ship Management Pvt Ltd goes out of its way to woo seafarers to make a career with the company. One way is to create a homely atmosphere on the ship for their crew. Capt Navin Passey their Managing Director says, “We ensure that seafarers go out to sea for short durations. We have created a work culture with options – work life balance – similar to the software industry. Our seafarers have access to face book, tweeter, MySpace, etc., SMS and voice calls, etc. so that while sailing they can keep in touch with their young ones at home and talk to them in the confines and comforts of their cabins.”

“Whether ashore or afloat my nature is to be personal and treat everyone as a part of my extended family,” says David C. C. Koo. “I reach out and communicate with the ships myself at times. Additionally we have provided all our crew with internet facility in order to have close contact with their families and friends. All the ships have internet and we have provided cheap calling cards thus offering the crew with the facility to be in touch with their families. We have family carriage policy which includes children. This is not just for the senior officers but also includes the junior officers. Besides, the quality of food provided on the ship is of the highest. We are known to have the highest victualing rates in the industry,and cooks from top hotels.”
More to promote the welfare and well being of the fellow seafarers the Founder and Managing Director of Pentagon Marine, Capt Nalin Pandey has set up one of the nation’s finest post sea Training Centers - Pentagon Maritime Training & Research Institute. It features world class facilities, including simulators’ computer-based training modules etc., to ensure that marine officers and engineers acquire knowledge and experience in every facet of tanker operations.
Recently, Anglo Eastern Group commissioned their Academy at Karjat, India, to impart tailor-made training to youth and grooming them into marine officers who meet the exacting standards of the company. The institute will cater to their entire additional requirement of marine officers needed for their rapidly growing fleet which today number 330 ships.

Peter Cremers, Chief Executive Officer of the Anglo Eastern Group at the inaugural said, “I strongly believe that good business sense – mixed with a bit of a dream – and a pinch or more of social responsibility are fundamental ingredients for success in business.”

This is no life.” The hard, cold reality of modern seafaring

Posted: Tue May 03, 2011 7:15 am
by The Dieselduck
Rose George, January 2011

It was only late afternoon, but already dark and stormy, on the Thursday of the week before Christmas 2009, when the cargo freighter Danny FII approached the Lebanese port of Tripoli en route from Uruguay to Syria. She carried 18,000 cattle, 10,000 sheep and 83 humans, including four passengers, and had been converted from a car carrier into a modern-day Noah’s Ark. Danny FII was not a new ship, but she was modern, because her crew was multi-global: a British captain and chief engineer, 59 Pakistanis, some Filipinos, a Lebanese and a Syrian. She was high-sided as car-carriers are, with some rust. Though she was Uruguayan, she flew another country’s flag. In all respects, she was an average member of the 90,000-strong fleet of freighters that sail the seas, bringing us 95 per cent of everything that we consume, from the computer that I write this on, to the ink on this page, and the coffee that you drink while you read this.

Eleven miles out from Tripoli, the night, the weather and Danny FII combined to create a fatal outcome. The details are still unknown, but Danny FII changed course, then capsized. Twenty-three sailors reached the lifeboats, but they capsized too, and the seas filled with drowning animals and men. There were 40 survivors, and 43 dead, including the captain, who went down with his ship. And so Danny FII was added to the 36 other ships that sunk that year, and the 43 were added to the estimated 2000 or so who lose their lives annually, and yet there were no headlines and not much attention paid. Consider the reaction if 37 airliners crashed every year, or 37 trains, and if it happened every year, regular as a shipping schedule. In 1910, the journalist F. R. Bullen wrote that we regarded this “indispensable bridging of the ocean” as “no more needing our thoughtful attention than the recurrence of the seasons or the incidence of day and night.” Nothing has changed. Our watery world has always depended on ships, and always disdained the men who sail them. The man who goes to sea, wrote Marco Polo, is a man in despair. This is still true, but today’s man of the sea is also probably poor, probably exploited, and living a life that contains at the least chronic fatigue and overwork (as a ship carrying 7000 containers will have a crew of 20, when a similar sized naval frigate will carry 1000 personnel); boredom and exploitation, pirates and danger. Suicide rates of seafarers are triple those of land-based occupations, and carrying sea cargo is the second most deadly job on the planet after fishing. The International Transport Federation, which represents seafarers, said recently that “the maritime and fishing industries continue to allow astonishing abuses of human rights of those working in the sector. Seafarers and fishers are routinely made to work in conditions that would not be acceptable in civilised society.” Only last year a young South African cadet named Akhona Geveza was found floating in the sea, an hour after reporting that she had been raped by a senior officer. An investigation by South Africa’s Sunday Times newspaper interviewed other cadets and found two made pregnant by senior officers; two male cadets raped; and a widespread atmosphere of intimidation. “When we arrived,” one female cadet told the newspaper, “we were told that the sea is no man’s land and that what happens at sea, stays at sea.” The International Commission on Shipping estimates that thousands of seafarers, working on 10-15% of the world’s ships “work in slave conditions, with minimal safety, long hours for little or no pay, starvation diets, rape and beatings.” The rest just have to deal with dangerous fatigue, isolation and pirates. All to bring us our Fairtrade coffee and our ethically sourced clothes.

A UK navy admiral last year accused Britons of “sea blindness;” of having no idea what sea life is like. But how can we? Shore and sea lives are nothing like. You would expect for example that the families of Danny FII dead crew would be compensated, because that is what happens in shore life, ideally, where there are checks and balances and courts and redress. But the men of Danny FII lived in a world that is essentially lawless. There are plenty of laws on paper. But despite the UN’s best efforts, no-one governs the sea, and no-one ever has. When something goes wrong at sea, the seafarer has nowhere to turn to. “A land-based person would have national jurisdiction,” says Deirdre Fitzpatrick of the International Transport Federation, which represents seafarers. “I’m in the UK, my problem is here, and I know where to go for help. If you are Filipino, on a Panamanian-flagged ship, travelling from South Africa to the Netherlands, what law is going to govern you? You are a total moving target.” International, multinational, transnational: this is normal in shipping, an industry whose complexity would please off-shore bankers. Crews of five or more nationalities are standard, and 60 per cent of ships now fly a flag of a country that is not that of their owner. These days, the average ship in British ports is unlikely to have either a British flag or a British crew. The only thing you can predict with certainty about it is that its sailors will be from poor countries, and they will be knackered. Occasionally, they will also be unpaid, or worse, which is where Tommy Molloy comes in.

An inspector for the International Transport Federation based in Liverpool, Molloy spends his days inspecting whichever of the world’s freighters has arrived at the quays of Liverpool and Birkenhead, to see if they pass muster. We meet in New Brighton, old-time seaside resort for Liverpool, now supplanted by Ryanair and short-haul sunshine. His office is on a retirement estate for ex-seafarers run by Nautilus, a seafaring union. On the day I visit, the sun is blazing and the bowling green is green, and there is a lovely view over the Mersey. All the old seafarers here are British, and “they wouldn’t recognise the industry today,” says Molloy, as we drive at pensioner speed through the lanes. But he hardly ever sees a Brit on the ships that call here, because they cost too much in wages, and expect things like being paid on time, or having the right to be in a union, that ship-owners can avoid quite easily and legally by flying a “flag of convenience,” a responsibility-avoidance system unique to shipping. It is common to see ships whose home port, painted on the stern, is Monrovia, Liberia, whose port when I visited in 2006 was wrecked by war and featured only a bullet-ridden rusting ship on its side in brown waters. But that doesn’t matter, because Liberia’s shipping registry is actually run by a company in Virginia, USA. Many nations license out their flag like a brand, so that ships belong to a nation state that supplies none of the governance or oversight that it should. Liberia doesn’t require its ship-owners to have any holdings in Liberia, ,or even to give their names, a practice which makes tracking down bad ship-owners almost impossible. Flagging out your ship, an Australian maritime union wrote recently, is like being able to register your car in Bali so you can drive it on Australian roads without having to get the brakes fixed.” There are decent open registries, but questionable ones abound. North Korea has a large fleet. When Cambodia-flagged ships got involved in too many sinkings and drug trafficking investigations, the registry office in Singapore was closed and two weeks later re-opened as Mongolia’s. The United Nations Law of the Sea specifies that there should be a “genuine link” between the flag-owner and the state. It took years for diplomats to agree on this. They are now spending years deciding what a genuine link should consist of. In practice, when anything goes wrong, the seafarer is on his own.

I drive with Molloy to Birkenhead docks. He has the right to visit ships that have signed an ITF agreement promising to respect certain wage levels and hours of rest. Otherwise he asks politely to visit. Shipping is the only industry that regulates working hours by hours of rest, because it would be impossible to conform to hours of work limits. On a recent passage I took, on a ship with remarkably high standards, conforming to regulations was impossible. In port, crews were working 18 hours a day, because shipping these days is 24 hours, 7 days a week. The days of days in port and the delights of sailor towns are long gone. With containerization, a ship can be loaded and unloaded and gone in 24 hours. Some crew members on my ship hadn’t been ashore in months. “I’ve been to New York, Hong Kong and Tokyo,” the chief engineer said, “And they all look like my engine room.”

Molloy doesn’t see many decent ships. “I deal with the dirty end of the industry.” The first ship though is fine. Hohe Bank is flagged in Antigua, owned by Germans, managed by Brits, built by Chinese and with an Indonesian crew and Russian officers. Normal, in other words. Molloy hands out ITF magazines in Russian and some Indonesian language, and they are pleased to get them, because it is human contact, which they don’t get much of. Only three percent of ratings have any internet access at sea, and only 16 percent of officers. Plenty of seafarers I meet tell me their job is like being “at prison with a salary.” Wrong, wrote the Maritime Charities Funding Commission, which found that “the provision of leisure, recreation, religious service and communication facilities are better in UK prisons than […] on many ships our respondents worked aboard.”

The ship “house” where seafarers live, is small but clean. But Molloy gives me a powerpoint presentation of some ships he has seen. Mouldy, filthy couches. Rotting fruit and meat. I hear complaints that ship-chandlers – suppliers – regularly give ships poor quality food, because they can, when a ship is in port for 24 hours and choice is limited. Green bananas, sub-standard meat. But the crew doesn’t complain here and the paperwork is orderly. Still, even on the better ships, Molloy can go aboard and be there for days. “You’ll find that all the crew have exceeded their contracts. We always try to persuade them to leave but often they don’t want to.” Non-officers don’t have permanent contracts, so staying at sea longer means more money and less need to immediately look for work. I met Filipinos with four children who had missed every birth and every birthday. It is the price they pay. “We call it dollar for homesickness,” one said.

On Hohe Bank, Molloy warns the officers to be careful: thieves like to steal from ships. The Russians look surprised. Isn’t this civilised England? But bad things can happen in civilised England, and have happened at this dock. The abandonment of ships peaks during times of recession, but it happens all the time, usually when an unscrupulous owner has run out of money and disappears, leaving a crew with no wages or supplies. The worst cases happen overseas, such as that of Arabian Victory, stranded in Dubai in 2002 for 45 days in temperatures of 44 degrees celsius. The Indian and Ukrainian crew didn’t even have water. Appeals to Dubai authorities, the flag state (Belize, in this case) and the Indian consulate failed. When the crew decided to sail to India for help, the Iraqi owner tried to arrest them for hijacking.

Arabian Victory’s case is extreme, but Molloy sees abuse that is alarming for being so routine. He boarded one Greek-owned ship and found that the Filipino crew and officers hadn’t been paid for months. “The captain got on the phone to the company and told me $48,000 was being wired immediately. I said, hang on, but I haven’t even calculated the total yet, then I did and it was $47,600. They knew exactly what they owed.” Last year the ITF recovered $30 million in unpaid wages. Why do owners think they can get away with it? Because they can, when a seafarer has no means of contacting a union or help.

Once when Molloy got money for the crew, he had a call at 3am from a crew member. “He was at Manchester Airport on his way home. He said, ‘I’m the only one who refused to give the money back as soon as you got off the ship, so they kicked me off.’” But who is going to enforce anything? When a crew is abandoned, the ITF can apply to the Admiralty Court to have the ship arrested and eventually sold. But this can take 12 weeks, and the sailors have no money and no food. So thank God for God-squadders. Welfare organisations such as the Sailors Society, Mission to Seafarers and Stella Maris, all run by churches, are often the only solace for exploited seafarers. They are crucial especially when the crew doesn’t want to leave for fear they will never get paid. Molloy tells of one Sri Lankan who told him, “If you send me home, I will cut my throat.” Like thousands of seafarers, he had coped with not being paid by taking loans from moneylenders, who were threatening to kill his family. Russians and Ukrainians are more likely to stand up for themselves, says Molloy, but the Filipinos will resist longer because of blacklisting, a practice that no-one admits to but which is widely used amongst the crewing agencies in the Philippines. Roy Paul, who looks after Filipino seafarers for the ITF’s Seafarers Trust, says it is common practice. “You’ll have someone who has worked for a ship for four or five years, then makes a complaint against, for example, a racist captain. Suddenly the agency has no ship for him, though it did for four years.” The conditions that Molloy sees every day would cause outrage ashore.

But at sea, anything goes, including getting jailed for doing the right thing, as happened to Apostolas Mangouras, a Greek captain who spent four days battling terrible seas off Spain and trying to save his oil tanker Prestige because the Spanish authorities had refused him a safe port. He failed, came ashore, and was imprisoned for months. In South Korea, when the Indian captain Jasprit Chawla anchored where he was told to, and was hit by a Samsung Heavy Industries barge with questionable navigational skills, Chawla was arrested, denied access to a lawyer and imprisoned. He was kept in isolation for a month and only released 18 months later after a global outcry. “You land a plane at sea and you’re a hero,” says Roy Paul. “You put a ship on land, and you’re a criminal.”

“I have to stress that most ship-owners are good,” says Deirdre Fitzpatrick. “They know that their most valuable asset is their employees.” They also know that there is a worldwide shortage of officers (a 33, 000 shortfall at last count). “They know that the maritime career isn’t attractive any more. They want to improve shipping’s image.” Campaigners hope that this will be the pressure point for an industry to clean up its act. Not much else seems to be working. Even the Fairtrade Foundation, bringing us our conscience-friendly coffee, is defeated by the complexities and realities of this extraordinary, unique industry. “We work with nearly 900 producer organisations in 60 countries across the developing world,” says Fairtrade’s Ian Bretman, ‘who ship to thousands of traders in over 20 different markets. Incorporating shipping requirements into our standards and certification processes would add to auditing costs.” It would be nice, he continues, to insist on ships that have signed ITF agreements or to avoid flags of convenience, but without any way of monitoring, “this would be merely an empty gesture.” Even so, “I hope that it will not be too long before we can consider what practical support we would offer to trade unions in the maritime and shipping industries so that seafarers can also see the benefits of Fairtrade.”

None of the seafarers I met share this optimism. In a seafarers’ centre, I ask Menandro, a ship’s cook, if he would send his son to sea. He used to be a civil servant in the Philippines, but the economy collapsed and only the shipping agencies were hiring. He now spends his days bringing us everything we need to survive, the sweets that we suck and the joints that we carve. Menandro is an educated and articulate man, but his answer is brief. “No, no and no. I am doing this so he doesn’t have to. This is no life.”

Faststream Reports Rising Demand For Technical Shipping Cand

Posted: Fri May 20, 2011 6:56 am
by The Dieselduck
Faststream Reports Rising Demand For Technical Shipping Candidates

The latest report by shipping industry recruiters Faststream reveals that there is a rising global demand for ex-seafarers in shore based positions.

In its Maritime Employment Review - Technical Shipping published today (20 May 2011), Faststream reveals an upsurge in candidate placements in 2010/11. Globally speaking, the average age of a technical shipping candidate in the past 12 months was 42 and the average salary of £55K (USD $89K / SGD $111K). Typically, the company was able to find and place a candidate within nine weeks.

Key findings of the report include:

· UK employers feeling impact of immigration cap
· Growing demand for technical people from commodity houses
· Classification societies hiring again
· Technical superintendent salaries firm
· Continued growth of Singapore as a ship management centre
· USA dominated by tanker hires

The report also shows that the churn in the ship management sector has led to more candidate movement in the past 12 months than in 2009 and that more than ever before is being asked of mid and senior level technical employees.

Faststream group managing director Mark Charman said:

“There are more jobs out there and there are good candidates too. We are not however seeing the speculative hires of the boom years, when companies were snapping up experienced technical staff and then worrying about finding them something to do. Today the challenge for employers seeking to bring in new blood or expand their operations is persuading candidates to move job and possibly relocate.”

He added:

“At the best of times it can be a difficult task to ask a good candidate in employment to take the leap and join your company, but against a backdrop of a difficult housing market, pessimism and uncertainty surrounding the general economy and a general sense of caution, employers searching for experienced and polished technical shipping people need to communicate the strength of their companies and be prepared to be flexible.”

Follow up on Cadet Akhona Geveza

Posted: Mon Jul 04, 2011 2:44 pm
by The Dieselduck
Lloyd's List: Safmarine commits to a revised cadet training programme

29 June 2011 - by Janet Porter

Safmarine said it has also introduced more stringent cadet recruitment procedures.
Scheme is changed following recent death


SAFMARINE has made changes to its cadet training programme following a fatality last year that left the line facing allegations in South Africa of sexual misconduct on its ships.

The company has now responded to those charges in a detailed account of exactly what happened on the UK-registered Safmarine Kariba in the hours before South African cadet Akhona Geveza was reported missing, and the subsequent inquiries in to her death.

After keeping quiet for the past 12 months while the case was investigated by the UK Marine Accident and Investigation Branch and the Croatian police, who had jurisdiction over the case because of the location of the ship at the time of the incident, Safmarine has explained what has happened since and why its cadet training scheme remains so important.

This year, Safmarine’s cadet programme has taken on 11 navigating cadets and 10 engineering cadets, with another 40 still being trained from the 2008, 2009 and 2010 intakes. The line also has 35 cadets on its ships that are part of the Transnet Port Authority cadet programme. Since 2000, Safmarine has accepted 375 navigating and enginering cadets, of which 25 were female.

Writing in the next edition of the Safmarine publication Navigator, which will be distributed to staff and customers early next month, chief executive Tomas Dyrbye says the claims that surfaced in the South African media about Ms Geveza’s death were not only deeply upsetting but “an inaccurate reflection of life on board our vessels”.

The allegations came as a “huge shock” to Safmarine, he writes, “as we had never — in the 30-year history of the port cadet training programme — received any direct complaints of sexual harassment onboard our ships even though we, as a company, provide South Africans serving on our vessels with access to an independent and confidential service for reporting incidents of this nature.”

Ms Geveza’s body was found in the sea, with the Croatian public attorney concluding that she had committed suicide. No criminal charges were brought against the chief officer, with whom the cadet was said to be having a relationship.

However, the officer in question, who was on a temporary contract and not a permanent crew member , has not been re-employed by Safmarine.

That is because “we believe that it is really important that a senior officer stands responsible for the well-being and comfort of cadets in his team”, says fleet director Peter Porter.

Safmarine, part of the AP Moller-Maersk group, suspended its cadet training programme for several months following the tragedy after consultation with Transnet, which employed Ms Geveza.

However, the programme was resumed in March after a number of alterations were introduced,

In particular, Transnet cadets will only be deployed on the Europe-South Africa route where voyages are shorter, giving cadets more opportunity to return home during their training.

In future, all cadets will also have confidential and 24-hour access to the internet and their own personal email. A two-day life skills programme has been introduced for all cadets before they go on board. This is led by an industrial psychologist and includes life orientation skills, including role plays in real life situations, dealing with conflict and addressing issues such as harassment.

Safmarine said it has also introduced more stringent cadet recruitment procedures which includes, among others, profiling of a candidates’ character and suitability for life at sea.

“We have made these changes because we do not want a single, isolated incident — no matter how tragic — to define and characterise this programme,” writes Safmarine’s corporate affairs director Fred Jacobs.

“The port cadet training programme has, for more than 30 years, helped young South Africans to secure a nautical education and we remain committed to providing those opportunities into the future. Today, we see many South Africans — who had served as cadets on our vessels — in important positions in many of South Africa’s ports and in business and we are proud that we have provided a foundation for their thriving careers.”

“GEARBULK” Scenario: Laying off the European crew

Posted: Fri Mar 09, 2012 4:29 am
by The Dieselduck
The “GEARBULK” Scenario: Laying off the European crew – an Exception or a Rule among European Shipowners?
Saturday, 03 March 2012 | 00:00

The recent announcements by the Norwegian shipowner "Gearbulk" on the plans to man its fleet completely with Asian crew and lay off all the European seafarers in the months to come, caused big dissatisfaction among European maritime professionals. What is concerning is that this is the likely strategy for many other European shipping companies that are trying to overcome the times of recession by turning to "lower-cost" crews.

Eric Superina, the owner and director of Maritime Connector, a job board specialized for maritime recruitment, believes that this strategy, besides harming the seafarers, in the long run, will have negative effects on individual shipowners as well as the industry as a whole.

"In these hard times for the shipping industry, the companies can not afford to "buy cheap". The knowledge and skills that the European officers bring to the ships are unquestionable. Europe, with its long maritime tradition, is still, in average, bringing to the labor market seafarers that are considered as ones with the highest competencies and skills. This is mostly due to the years of developing the maritime education of the highest quality, which very few third-nation countries managed to achieve until now. Thus, this move by the Norwegian "Gearbulk" could incur indirect costs for this company in the long run, that will greatly surpass the short term savings from lower crew cost. It is obvious now that the European maritime professionals, as well as the Maritime Affairs Department of the Economic Commission, will have to engage much more actively in analyzing the current state in the EU maritime labor industry, determine the problem and find possible solutions" states Superina.

For a while now, Maritime Connector is conducting research studies and monitors the problem of the rapidly declining numbers of European officers, especially those from the Western European countries. The MC team is currently preparing a project aimed at stimulating the employment of European cadets. Recent developments in the maritime labor market, including the Gearbulk case, made the management to change its initial plans and to expand the project's scope to all European officers and help in the opening of workplaces on board ships for European officers as well as to facilitate their employment.

"Noticing the increasing numbers of European cadets that have hard times in finding a Cadet Program for themselves, we decided to contact some of the shipowners and associated shipping associations in Europe.

We will offer them the recruitment marketing and other services that we usually provide completely free of charge or under beneficial conditions if they employ a European cadet in the time of the campaign. The campaign and promotion is under preparation and we plan to launch it in the beginning of April, when exact details will be revealed. The goal of the campaign is to promote the seafaring profession among Europeans as well as to help the cadets looking for their first employment. We are thinking about expanding the scope of the project and launch simultaneously a similar campaign that will involve all the European seafarers, regardless of the rank, mostly due to recent developments. We want to facilitate their employment, by making them more competitive in the labor market. Another objective of the project is raising the awareness of the problem Europe maritime industry is facing. We are open to partnerships and invite all the interested parties to join our cause”- said Ivona Milinovic, the “European seafarer” project manager, Maritime Connector.

Source: Maritime Connector

Re: Crew Shortage

Posted: Thu Aug 30, 2012 8:57 am
by barkerstyle
Personally, I feel that the crew shortage issue is not clear cut. It might even be a bit of a myth.

In college we were told about this massive global crew shortage and all the opportunities we as new engineers would have. We would have "the pick of the jobs" we were told. What they don't tell you is that the so called global crew shortage mostly affects Asian, African, or Middle East shipping industries. What they don't tell you is that as a Canadian, you are too expensive to hire. When I graduated college and was more than willing to go to sea for 4-6 months straight I couldn't BUY a job from overseas shipping companies. The companies in europe wouldn't touch me with a 10 foot pole. So how much of a shortage is there really? Some Canadian mariners I have known have indeed been lucky enough to get those overseas jobs but not many. So I'm not buying into the big shortage.

As for Canada, the biggest maritime industry is probably the Great Lakes. Most companies on the great lakes would complain of a serious lack of youthful and qualified crew. In my opinion, whatever hole companies on the great lakes or the arctic or east coast find themselves in, they have dug themselves. Crew are treated as a commodity to be pushed around, manipulated, and squeezed for whatever the HR department can get out of them. It really isn't a life. You have got to really want to be there or you HAVE to be there for whatever reason. No doubt some are content and happy and I say good for them. But the stats don't lie. Young people are not entering this industry for a multitude of reasons. Personally, I'm not that obsessed with money, (I enjoy making good money, don't get me wrong), but if I could have a reliable day for day rotation all year round and take a pay cut then I would. We are only going this way once right? The great lakes industry has not made any real efforts to establish a day for day rotation for their crews. Particularly engine crews. As we know the old excuse has been "the great lakes is a seasonal industry and can't do day for day". This of course is just an empty excuse. I have been told that, then had to work all winter on lay up or refit. Then started the new shipping season in March. Not enough work for 2 engineers? Of course there is. The active unions on the great lakes that hold votes and seek out input from their members have also concluded that most of the old time members i.e the ones with the grey hair, simply don't want a day for day leave system. So even though their days are numbered in the industry, they seem to have a disproportionately large voice in opposing a day for day leave system. Young people today are simply not interested in the 1950's mentality of joining a ship and staying there for 3 or 4 months. Then only to get 1 month off (if you are lucky).

Contrast this to the Canadian and International Offshore industries: Always day for day leave, the best of benefits, parts come as ordered, lots of meaningful training as opposed to silly little courses that passes for training with some outfits, the newest and best of technology in the maritime industry. Ask Maersk, Husky, or Canship if they have a severe personnel shortage. They might say they are always looking but very few crew members have to stay past their scheduled crew change unless it is a exceptional circumstance.

When I tell people what I do for a living, they always ask about the rotation. Luckily I have a day for day rotation now which is so important to my happiness. But I often mention how other companies and industries in Canada do not have an equal rotation for their crews and some have virtually none at all. This ALWAYS results in "I could never do that". So money and benefits are important, but crew rotation is HUGE. As people age, they don't have the piss and vinegar they did when they were 23, and being home more tends to be more important. Shipping companies in Canada are very slow to wake up to this. This on top of all the other stresses of the job: lousy co-workers (sometimes), no parts, lousy food, etc, just to name a few. So again, I feel that if a shipping company can't find or keep a crew then it's most likely their own fault. I have met more than one young, smart, ambitious engineer who couldn't get a dollar to help with a ticket, or couldn't get any time off to do a course. Some companies are so short sighted they can't see 5 inches in front of their own face. They reap what they sow.

Re: Crew Shortage

Posted: Thu Aug 30, 2012 10:01 am
by JK
Excellent points!

Re: Crew Shortage

Posted: Fri Aug 31, 2012 6:52 pm
by JollyJack
They reap what they true, and what they are sowing are the seeds of third world crews at 300 bucks a month per head. The crew "shortage" is generated by such tactics, so when, at some time in the not-so-distant future, there are no Canadian Engineers available to fill the bunks required to be filled by safe manning documents, shipowners can ask their politicos to invoke the Canada Shipping Act 2001, section 89, which says:

89. (1) If the government of a foreign state has entered into a reciprocal arrangement with the Government of Canada to accept certificates of competency issued under this Part in lieu of certificates of competency of that state and if the Minister is satisfied that the requirements under the laws of the foreign state for a certificate of competency meet or exceed the requirements under this Act, the Minister may direct, subject to any conditions that the Minister specifies, that the foreign certificate may be accepted in lieu of a certificate of competency issued under this Part.

STCW sets the international standard for Certificates of Competence and the means by which they are attained and Canada is signatory to the STCW Convention. So, "if the Minister is satisfied that the requirements under the laws of the foreign state for a certificate of competency meet or exceed the requirements under this Act," and STCW will satisfy the Minister or his Delegated Examiners, that this meets or exceeds the requirements of the Act and associated Regulations, (in this case, Marine Personnel Regulations, which are crafted to meet STCW standards) the shipowner can employ cheaper Chinese crews, or any other crew nationality whose State has signed the STCW Convention.

The Manilla Amendments allow block credit courses to take the place of Examinations, so Examinations will go the way of the dodo. Of course, Colleges will only run block credit courses when there are enough students to justify the cost, and there will only be enough students to justify the cost when enough Engineers can afford, or be allowed, to take a 3 month block of time off to do the course...and pay several thousand dollars for it! This strategy will ensure that the supply of expensive Canadian crews will dry up, not enough students for block credit courses, no Examinations, no Certificates issued, so what do you have? CREW SHORTAGE!

The future of Marine Engineering is in China, or whichever country undercuts it in crew costs, all it will take is a minor adjustment to minimum manning Regulations concerning Safe Manning Documents, where a Certificate required by a SMD must be Canadian, and only a Canadian citizen or Permanent Resident can hold a Canadian CoC. Regulations are much easier to change than Acts.

Re: Crew Shortage

Posted: Sat Sep 01, 2012 4:02 am
by barkerstyle
I have long had a bit of a conspiracy theory regarding what you described. Shipping companies (particularly in Canada) have been trying to drive Canadian crews out of the business in order to lobby for cheaper foreign crews. They get to whine and complain to the powers that be that they can't find anybody, then they have a self made shortage. You, Jolly Jack articulated this in a far better way. Some people I know call me a conspiracy nut. :p

Re: Crew Shortage

Posted: Sat Sep 01, 2012 4:17 pm
by seagull
There is a definite crew shortage. But, those companies who have the foresight to pay a going industry level rate; and practice some ideas of implementing crew retention ideas.. manage to attract and keep good people.

Other outfits, such as the one I work for.. do the opposite to the above; and wonder why they can find, and retain only those who are on their way up, or, out, of the industry. Makes one wonder why one sticks around themselves. Professional pride ?

Ok.. I do believe some will be using this shortage to hire in International talent. They dont care.. as long as the profit centre moves.

Re: Crew Shortage

Posted: Sat Sep 01, 2012 6:16 pm
by JollyJack
[quote="barkerstyle"]I have long had a bit of a conspiracy theory regarding what you described.

There's no conspiracy, that would suggest collusion and there is not an atom of a sign of that. It's merely about the money, and only the money, all the time. (to paraphrase a well known dragon) Third world crews are cheaper than Canadian ones, it's that simple. Canadian Steamship Line has 40-odd ships, for example, but only about 20 of them are registered in Canada. They are all owned or chartered by a Canadian corporation, trading to canadian ports, though it may be a nominal brass plate on a sandspit in Vanuatu, and their crews are multi-national. Other Canadian companies, Secunda, in NS for example, have done the same thing. Russians are cheaper than Canadians, so a Barbados flag is more attractive.

It's only about money. Nothing else. The days are long gone when a seafarer worked for a shipping line, starting as a Cadet and retiring a Chief or Captain. Back then, seafarers were loyal to the Company and the Company was loyal to the seafarer. Now, the companies are loyal to their money and seafarers have ceased to be people, merely a drain on profits. Obviously, the less sailors are paid, the higher the profit margin and the more money shipowners make. THAT is the reason for owning ships in the first place. The lower the crew cost, the higher the profit margin, and crew costs are among the highests costs in operating a ship.

Re: Crew Shortage

Posted: Sat Sep 01, 2012 6:49 pm
by barkerstyle
All good points but the "conspiracy" I refer too is the conspiracy between the maritime companies and the regulatory agencies ( or politicos as you called them) to allow foreign nationals to work on Canadian registered ships, or allow foreign registered ships to carry cargo within Canadian ports or to streamline immigration policies to usher foreign mariners through the immigration process so they will happily work in Canada. Shipping companies cannot do these things by themselves they require collusion with government. Hence, a conspiracy between two cooperating players to circumvent Canadas labour laws. Seasonal or migratory workers have already become a common sight in Canada. Soon and even now, they are being allowed to infiltrate the maritime industry in this country. So there may not be a JFK style conspiracy of epic proportions but I feel that there is a concerted effort to by pass existing crewing regulations and drive out existing Canadian professional mariners (heavily unionized and dwindling in numbers). That was my half cocked conspiracy idea. Maybe conspiracy is too provocative a word? Maybe we should call it an organized effort by various agencies of public and private interests to allow private companies to exploit highly trained and inexpensive foreign crews to do work in Canadian domestic markets. Now that would be an interesting idea.....