Given the growing demand for Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW)-certified seafarers, there will be need for an additional 89,510 officers to operate the world’s merchant fleets by 2026, a new report has shown.
The new Seafarer Workforce Report, released in August 2021, further warns of a shortfall in trained officers by that time if the industry fails to significantly increase training and recruitment levels.
The report further indicates that the industry has seen a 10.8 percent increase in the enrolment of officers since 2015; and despite the pandemic, demand continues on an upward trajectory, with the current shortfall of 26,240 STCW-certified officers indicating that demand for seafarers in 2021 outpaced supply. Currently, there are 1.89 million seafarers serving onboard over 74,000 merchant ships globally.
Commenting on the nation’s development and prospects, Captain William Amanhyia – a lecturer at the Regional Maritime University (RMU), said adequate training of seafarers to fill the gap presents an opportunity to promote national development, reduce youth unemployment, and serve as a conduit for stability of the nation’s international trade.
He said stakeholders in the nation’s maritime industry ought to seriously reflect on revenue figures from the Philippines, which indicate that in 2019, for example, Filipino seafarers remitted US$6.5billion to the country – up from US$5.6billion in 2014.
He told the B&FT that Ghana’s strict adherence to stipulations of the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) gives shipowners confidence in the nation’s robust educational system when deciding to engage Ghanaian seafarers; but added that the decision to increase the number of persons trained requires cooperation from government.
“Unfortunately, all our calls for government to initiate the appropriate policies seem to fall on deaf ears; and sometimes we, the professionals, are at a loss as to why it is so despite the abundant evidence we bring to bear,” he remarked.
The report particularly highlighted a pressing shortage of officers with technical experience at the management level.
“This could be a plus should Ghana start exporting trained officers, in view of the fact needed technical knowledge would already be a part of our basic education curriculum,” he noted, adding that this should be of primary importance as government plans to increase the gross enrolment ratio for tertiary education to 40% within the next 10 years, and given the Ministry of Education’s intention to place more focus on expanding science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
The report further reveals an uptick in women’s participation, as an estimated 24,059 women are now serving as seafarers – an increase of 45.8 percent compared with the 2015 report. However, the total female STCW-certified seafarers is now estimated to be 1.28 percent of the global seafarer workforce.
Captain Amanhyia highlighted RMU’s efforts at encouraging women to enter the industry, adding that this will help break gender stereotypes.
According to the lecturer, to position Ghana for seafaring opportunities there ought to be significant and relevant investment made in training, management and marketing. Although the country has since demise of the National Shipping Lines continued training seafarers, it has not marketed them well; and seafarers from Ghana have therefore not received the required international recognition. As a result, securing Jobs for them has been difficult.
“We have not marketed ourselves well in the past, and so do not have sufficient impact in the recruitment arena. To make an impact we need good agencies like they have in the Philippines, which keep good seafarer records and market aggressively.
“Above all, we must make all efforts to stay on the White List of the IMO and ensure that the quality of the Ghanaian seafarers we send from the country is good, to guarantee future placements,” he added.