9 Experts Discuss the Skills Seafarers Need in the Future





Lili Nguyen


05 Jan 2018

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As the shipping industry is transforming digitally, the pressure for operators to adapt is increasing. The rapid pace of change calls for seafarer education to catch up and even anticipate further modifications to the mariner’s role on board (and possibly on shore).

We asked 9 industry leaders what they think training should be like in the future and what additional skills seafarers need to excel in the digital maritime industry. (See transcript below.)

Stephen Cotton, General Secretary, ITF

“We’ve seen maritime change considerably over the history of the maritime industry. We are seeing a lot of simulator-based and computer-based training that is there to help seafarers learn quickly in the modern age. We envisage that this would be the area where there will be potential growth and further change. I would say, as this is a bit of a society question, the method of education for people for the future will have to change. The method of learning by reciting tombs of information is not the solution. Young people have got a different attention span, they have different expectations, and we see that automation, communication, digitalisation will put all of these things under challenge and we need to be a part of it. How does it work? How can we make it work? What skills do you need to be a seafarer for the future?”

KD Adamson, Futurist & CEO, Futurenautics

“When it comes to training seafarers for the future, I think we have to understand that digitalisation changes the game. We are going to need new and different skills, but very importantly, what we can also do in the future is personalised training and personalised education, and that’s something that I don’t think the industry has looked at in enough detail. Using things like gamification, we can achieve the segment of one, as it were. We can create training that is personalised absolutely to the individual, and that will give us a really good opportunity to start closing the gap between compliance and competence, which is something we’re often talking about at conferences like this. So I think there are some huge opportunities there, if we could just grasp them.”

John Lloyd, Chief Executive Officer, The Nautical Institute

“I think our training institutions and our employers have got great responsibility of making sure that our seafarers have got the skills to use the most modern equipment. With changes in technology, that equipment can change very quickly, so they will need on-board training, they maybe need the support of computer based training, and of course the colleges need to equip themselves with the most up-to-date equipment, ready for the seafarers to get the right experience in their training phases.”

Alexander Avanth, Future Education Specialist, Dare Disrupt

“I think the training that should be provided for the seafarers is much the same as the training that should be provided for nearly all other industries, specifically, STEM competences – that is science, technology, engineering, and math. And the reason for this is that it’s a basic for any industry. Digital requires that you have a certain understanding of STEM. But on the softer side, it’s also quite important that individuals, especially at sea, have an understanding of softer skills such as philosophy and also critical thinking. Now, this is mainly because we cannot rely on technology to do everything for us and as such, we must be critical towards it. And sometimes, it’s just easier to say, just like we do when we watch Netflix, to play the next thing in line. When it comes to living and working on the sea, critical thinking is needed in order to challenge this perception and up-cycle your job.”

Yuzuru Goto, Managing Director, K Line LNG Shipping UK

“The training that we are focusing on is around human interaction and human behaviours. We train our seafarers to learn and implement specific behaviours – we call them safety leadership behaviours –, which allows the group of people to interact in a very positive and constructive way. This is about developing a culture within the organisation so that training is something that we may have been lacking to date. Now, with the new technology coming, we have some interesting tools, like 3D simulation and gamification, which allow seafarers to train and practice on board.”

Glenys Jackson OBE, Manager, Merchant Navy Board

“It’s quite difficult, I think, to look at training for seafarers for the future, because we don’t actually know what the future is going to look like or even when is the future? I do believe that ships becoming automated will have an effect on seafarer training, and I think we need to look very closely at the technical skills that will be required for that, because I think they will be different from before. It’s not going to be about driving a ship. It’s going to be about controlling the systems that drive the ship, whether that’s on board or remotely and whether it’s navigation, or engineering, or electro-technical [systems]. Again, I don’t think it’s going to be the same discipline areas that there are at the moment. In terms of what that training actually needs to be, I think we need to be doing much more intelligence gathering within the industry as a whole to identify what that training actually needs to be.”

Mark Charman, CEO, Faststream Recruitment Group

“I think there’s a lot of training available to seafarers which is based on meeting their competency requirements, their STCW… I think there’s a wealth of industry training that’s available to seafarers. What I feel that seafarers would really benefit from is soft skills training, so looking at topics like leadership and managing people, looking at some of the softer skills associated with management in the sector. I think that’s really what seafarers are crying out for as part of their wider development, and as part of their transition to shore-side careers.”

Karen Waltham, Managing Director, HR Consulting

“I think there’s an awful lot more that could be done in terms of managing their careers. I think when seafarers start off in their life, do they actually know where life will be in a number of years’ time? I think preparing them for a life at sea, and then beyond, trying to do the talent pipeline if you like, is really important right from the word go to manage their expectations.”

Bjarke Jacobsen, Partner, Green-Jacobsen

“I believe that we should focus more on leadership training when it comes to the future. The challenges we are facing now and in the future are highly related to having good leaders. If we have good leaders, we can overcome these challenges – that is my firm belief. When I was finishing the academy 33 years ago, there was no leadership training at all and still, today, we are not giving leadership training to our seafarers. This, in my opinion, will be a game-changer. Leadership training is not about reading a book or taking a CPT. Leadership training is about being aware of your strengths, your weaknesses, having role-awareness, and self-awareness that is taught through reflection, personal profiling analysis, discussions, having a new mindset. This, I believe, will be a game-changer for the future.”