Deliberate gov’t policy needed for the training and exportation of local seafarers

Captain William Amanhyia (left), Captain Georgina Jopap (middle) and Captain Christopher Obeng-Adamu (right)

The Ghanaian Government has been encouraged to develop a deliberate policy that focuses on the training and exportation of seafarers from Ghana. According to some experts in the maritime industry, Ghana must act with urgency in order to get her fair share of the projected 800,000 seafarers in demand from Africa to man the new generation of ships.

This is viewed as good news and opportune for the Ghana Government to seek investment into training centres and facilities, subsidise training cost, and enter bilateral agreements for this cause.

Pundits believe that if done right, not only will this venture be lucrative, but it will also create jobs for Ghana’s teeming youth.

This appeal was once again made on the Eye on Port TV programme, where the resource persons echoed the need for government to prioritise the training and exportation of Ghanaian seafarers.

According to Captain William Amanhyia, a Master Mariner and Lecturer at the Regional Maritime University (RMU), Ghana historically has the reputation of producing quality seafarers, which should be leveraged on.

“The Ghanaian seafarer is very fit for purpose. We have a training scheme which has been on the IMO whitelist for years. Although interest in seafaring has been waning globally, in Ghana’s maritime sector, we have started extensive programmes that encourage people to go to sea. So I believe with the proper policies and the government backing in training facilities, which we need a lot of, we should be able to make a lot.”

He confirmed that during the IMO Conference on Low Carbon Shipping that took place in Mombasa, Kenya, it was collectively recognised that with the decarbonisation of shipping comes the opportunity to develop and train new maritime skills, presenting an opportunity for Africans to meet the labour demand.

The former shipmaster with the Pacific International Lines-Singapore said Ghana must tap into this ‘gold mine’ which can lead to the kind of success experienced by the Philippines, where a vibrant, buoyant economy has been built on the back on seafarer exportation, raking in close to US$7billion yearly.

“If we expect about 800,000 seafarers in Africa to man the new ships, we – as Ghana – can target 400,000 just like the Philippines, we should be able to make half of what they make. It is actually a gold mine,” he expressed.

Contributing to the discourse, Maritime Safety and Security Consultant, Captain Georgina Jopap, emphasised the need for a deliberate government policy for this objective, citing first hand experiences of what happens in Bangladesh and other countries.

“The Government of Bangladesh entered a bilateral agreement with Japan Government, where they source their crew from Bangladesh. Similarly, in Brazil, when they found oil, the government made a deliberate conscious effort to ensure local content participation within the offshore exploration sector. They paid the insurance premium of the Brazilians when safety risk factors were raised. 10 years later, Brazil has a full complement of trained officers and workers to work in their offshore industry. In South Africa, they deliberately created a schooling system, acquired a training vessel where they trained seafarers to use for their merchant ships and exported others.”

Capt. Jopap, who has over 40 years of experience in the maritime industry in various capacities and the first African woman to qualify as Master Mariner, urged government to initiate the creation of maritime training centres that will be responsible for training ratings at sea, separate from the Regional Maritime University dedicated to training officers.

Adding his voice to the calls, Master Mariner and Lecturer at RMU, Captain Christopher Obeng-Adamu, said in order for long-term benefits to be realised like in the Philippines, the government must plan and define goals to be accomplished within set timeframes.

He said seagoing must be made attractive for the ordinary Ghanaian youth.

Capt. Obeng-Adamu, with three decades of experience at sea, said in the same vein, to remain desirable on the international market, Ghana must ensure to comply with the conventions that govern the conduct of maritime education training. According to him, this means that Ghana Maritime Authority must set the standards; and auxiliary agents responsible for the recruitment of seafarers will have to comply with those regulations.

He also said the validity of licenses of Ghanaian seafarers must be maintained at all times through periodic reorientation and revalidation with mother institutions so that they do not expire and render seafarers unqualified.

Capt. Obeng-Adamu opined that the training given at maritime training institutions, while specifically tailored toward jobs at sea, should be made versatile enough to be applicable in other fields.

“We have the deck crew, the engineers and the Electro-Technical Officers (ETOs), who are competent not only to fill gaps in our maritime industry, but also in manufacturing sectors. Companies like Coca-Cola can absorb these engineers and electrical technicians,” he cited.

Ghana is currently said to have about 5400 seafarers, of which 95 percent are in active service.

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