SA seafarer recruitment on crest of a wave
There’s been a sea change in the global recruitment of shipping crews and Africa — led by SA’s Bay-driven maritime training programme — is on the crest of a wave.
Disruptive world events, the quality of SA’s training programme and a landmark contract signed with the International Maritime Organisation are together making a difference.
These were some of the points which emerged on Wednesday at a seminar at the Boardwalk convention centre hosted by the SA International Maritime Institute.
Odwa Mtati, the institute’s CEO, said SA’s maritime training programme was already of sufficient quality to be included on the International Maritime Organisation’s “white list”, but there was room for improvement.
“The maritime sector is changing and our training needs to keep up.
“It’s no use having only diesel engine ship crews available when the demand is for seafarers to run hydrogen-driven or autonomous ships.”
Mtati said the seminar was designed to explore strategies that would improve SA’s maritime recruitment, training and placement system.
“Part of it is to look at the way other maritime countries run their systems.”
He said SA’s maritime sea cadet training programme had been in place since 2012, and it was now hosted by the Durban University of Technology, Cape Peninsula University of Technology and Nelson Mandela University.
“We have two service providers who place our graduates on ships around the world.
“It hasn’t been easy but the situation is improving.
“The International Maritime Organisation visited us last year and at the end of the year we signed a contract agreeing to a pilot project where their members would in 2024 employ 50 African seafarers, and thereafter this number would be increased.
“This amplifies the system we already have in place.”
The commercial manager of one of the service providers, Pieter Coetzer of SA Maritime Training Academy, said the current demand for SA and African sea cadets was unprecedented.
“One contributing factor was Covid-19 where flights home were restricted and seafarers could not be repatriated, so many left the industry.
“Another factor is the Russian-Ukraine war, which has taken out the Russian seafarers, who made up 12% of the global total.
“Ship owners are also coming for our diversity.
“Globally about 2% of crews are women, while on our training programme 30-40% of our students are women.
“We are on the brink of an Africa renaissance in the seafarer recruitment and placement sector.”
Paulette Maswanganyi, of Marine Crew Services, said the situation was exciting but challenging.
“The demand we are getting is from specialised fleets for instance gas tankers, and ships that operate with dynamic positioning systems — integrated computer-controlled systems that maintains the ship’s position and heading.
“We’re also hearing the call from international cargo trade vessels and ice-class vessels which have lost their Russian seafarers.
“We have suitably experienced seafarers that regularly make the trip down to Antarctica, for instance, but there is a lack of polar certificates in hand.
“We need ship owners to invest in training and we need continued funding from the government, specifically for specialised training, and we need a system where the appropriate certification is made available.
“With those things in place we can capitalise on the great position we’re in.”
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