Towards the most preferred Seafarer status | Sunday Observer

Towards the most preferred Seafarer status

23 October, 2022

Review of Maritime Transport 2021 stated that around 80% of the volume of international trade in goods is carried by sea. In the 12 months to 1 January 2021, the global commercial shipping fleet grew by 3 per cent.Globally there are around 1.9 million seafarers. In a world where human dreams continue to grow, opportunities for seafarers will continue to rise.

According to the BIMCO/ICS Seafarer Workforce Report 2021 (BIMCO/ICS 2021), in 2021 around the world there were 1,892,720 seafarers, of whom 857,540 were officers and 1,035,180 were ratings. The largest supplier for both officers and ratings was the Philippines followed by the Russian Federation, Indonesia, China, and India. Together, these countries supplied 44 per cent of the global seafarer workforce.ICS workforce Report 2021 identifies a shortfall 26,000 officers by 2026!

With such numbers on cards, Sri Lankan seafarers, Sri Lankan Maritime Institutes, Sri Lankan Maritime Administration & Sri Lankan Manning agents should eye this as an opportunity never to miss! At a time when foreign remittances are of immense value &a need to our country, it is not rocket science to comprehend the importance of the seafarers. It is the ideal for the youth, relatively a fast start with a short time duration in pre sea training & a profession that has international recognition. Hence it is a ‘must grab’ opportunity!

Locally, the advertising & marketing of this golden opportunity should never be limited to the Maritime Institutes & Manning Agents. The Administration/responsible Government bodies should come forward to ensure the message travelsto all districts in the Island.

The logical focus should be on the school leavers, the participants of marine compatible/convertible vocational training centers & the hospitality Industry. At a grass root level,introductory sessions about seafaring could be carried out in national & international Colleges. Invariably those sessions will lure teenagers with an interest to the profession. Learning, value addition, language proficiency, mental toughness, physical fitness, passion for the profession, ability to take up challenges, being resilient, well-mannered etc should be mandatory elements for all Sri Lankan Seafarers. The ‘face’ of the Sri Lankan Seafarer will advertise to the world about the Country, the Manning Agent, training Institute/College & the Administration. Hence it is absolutely crucial that all the stake holders ensure that our Sri Lankan Seafarer is good in order to be the most preferred nationality.

The key players in ensuring the Sri Lankan Seafarer is marketable, productive & of quality lies mainly with the Institutes/Colleges, Administration & the Manning agents.

Competent and proficient lecturers, Industry oriented education, absorbing & introducing the developments in the industry, affordable training to seafarers, use of modern technology, accepting/requesting for feedbacks & thus revising/amending the methods of teaching, following up on the candidates passed out & conducting training sessions based on appraisal reportsetc should all be compulsory ingredients in Sri Lankan Maritime Institutes/Colleges.

Sri Lankan Maritime Administration must concentrate on being an IT-oriented if not, a digitalized body. In an era where even the trainees are equipped with smart phones, the necessity for the Administration to be smart cannot be over emphasized. If the objective is to market the Sri Lankan seafarers, the service to such seafarers should be a blue carpet. In that context, steps should be taken to make the processes with zero red tape. A speedy workforce, a core team that regularly liaises with international maritime bodies, and a staff that is seafarer/customer friendlyare of paramount importance, in Sri Lankan Maritime administration. More often than otherwise, Sri Lankan passport holders have to go through many hassles to obtain visas to enter most countries. When the focus is ‘Seafarers joining ships’, Sri Lankan seafarers have to go through some untold hardships to obtain visas to join ships from certain countries. The administration must come forward & have constructive dialogues with those respective embassies to obtain visas in short time periods. Also, when trying to close the gap between the shortage of officers & the supplying/training of cadets, the administration must keep a check on numbers trained and numbers employed so that the number of trained but unemployed candidates are kept to a minimum.

Manning agents are also a key ingredient in the making of a quality Sri Lankan seafarer. Every manning agent who enters the recruitment industry, should mandatorily be equipped with a Seafarer Recruitment & Placement Services (SRPS) certificate. Whether it is a ‘small timer’ or otherwise, having an SRPS certificate should be a must. In the same vain, needless to say, holding avalid MLC &ISO certification should also be a checklist item with any Manning agent. If recruiting ‘Quality’ Sri Lankan seafarers is the objective of this entire exercise, then it is safe to say that only qualified professionals in manning agency business will be able to select quality seafarers. Hence it is a must to have qualified staff in any manning office. Ideally, qualified staff who interview seafarers can well be Ex seafarers (seniors) as they are well versed with shipboard matters. All manning agencies must have procedures in place for screening & vetting new recruits. As a manning agent who gets directly involved with foreign Principals, they must make every possible effort to market Sri Lankan seafarers to more Principals.

There are few other players who could also contribute in adding quality to Sri Lankan Seafarers. They are the ‘Seafarer Unions’ & the Medical Practitioners who conduct Pre Employment Medical Examinations. Medical practitioners must ensure that their quality is always maintained at a higher level. As the saying goes ‘The proof of the pudding is in the eating’, other than in exceptional circumstances, all seafarers who gets a ‘Fit for sea duty’ should be able to perform the full tenure without any early repatriations due to medical matters. Proper periodic calibrations of the equipment, availability of the PEME reports ‘On line’ (to Manning agents), periodic audits of these PEME centres by the administration should be a must in this era.

Finally, If the Sri Lankan Seafarer is to make any impact on world stage, the Maritime Institutes, The administration & the Manning agents must gel well, must coordinate, must perform on timelines and must take responsibility.

The writer is the General Manager of Manaco Marine (Pvt) Ltd.