June 15, 2024

CMA Shipping 2023: Experts Harp On Seafarers Welfare, Challenges

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*Tasks engine manufacturers on training of Seafarers

 

By Frank Odinukaeze

 

The Chairman of International Maritime Employers Council( IMEC),Belal Ahmed,has stated that collaboration between IMEC,
ICS and ITF is helping to drive progress on key seafarer related issues.
Speaking ahead of his appearance at CMA Shipping 2023 in March, Ahmed gave an overview of the challenges facing seafarers, the risks they pose to the industry, and the work being done to overcome those challenges.
He said that weekly meetings between himself, International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) General Secretary Stephen Cotton and International Chamber (ICS) of Shipping ,Secretary General Guy Platten ,were started during the pandemic to co-ordinate efforts in issues like seafarer vaccination and crew transfers.
He said the co-operation has grown to encompass issues affecting seafarers including training, welfare, and helping the transition to new fuels.
“We have a very good interaction among us, and working very closely have made us to trust each other, even though we represent quite different sides of the industry,” he said.
He added that,”I think the key here is that If these three organisations have never been together in tune, and now that we are, the three of us can get our organisation to direct our people to work together”.
The IMEC chairman sees a rising threat to the maritime industry from the growing skill requirements for seafarers and demands placed upon them, coupled with ever-improving working conditions and offerings from shore-based roles.
His words,”I believe seafarers, traditionally, and historically, have been respected. But for the last two to three decades, they have not been. They have not been given the respect that they deserve,” Ahmed noted, adding that working conditions have changed gradually over the years, but the total of those changes is dramatic.
“And now with the new technology, you need people who are more educated. And if you need those people, you need to match their expectation with regard to what they need in life.”
He noted that gone are the days when people would become seafarers to see the world and visit new countries as he did, as the world is just a cheap flight away.
“How do you capture these people who can probably have a better job ashore? The challenge is that to get the good people, talented people, you have to train them, and we have to provide the right environment for them to stay on the ship. I think that that’s the key and a radical mindset is needed,’ he stated.
Ahmed will speak in his capacity as IMEC chairman at CMA Shipping in the US in March, taking part in the State of the Industry panel.
High on his agenda at the event will be a call for greater training, provision for seafarers on new technologies, close to the regions and countries where seafarers live.
The IMEC chairman , expressed worry over the attitude of big engine manufactures,and argued that they have a huge responsibility to train the people that will operate the engines ,but they are not doing enough in that direction.
“A lot of big engine manufacturers have a lot of the auxiliary, ancillary machineries that are becoming digital and high tech, but they are not training the people who need to run it every day,”
“If I’m an engine manufacturer and I have built an engine, I have responsibility to make sure that the those who are going to drive the engine are trained. I need to make it easy for them to be trained.”he said.
He noted that current practice is for training to be given to the crew taking a ship out of the shipyard, but beyond that training, provision is left to individual companies to arrange.
“Right now companies have to spend a lot of money to send crews to Denmark, or elsewhere in Europe, but the most of the crews are coming from the Philippines and from India and they don’t have any training,” Ahmed observed.
He said bringing training centres for advanced shipboard technologies closer to crew sourcing locations will not just help with up-skilling vital workers, but will also bring great safety benefits as crews become more familiar with the technologies and software that ships rely on to operate.
“I remember stories in the 60s when the first radar came on ships, we used to have something called ‘radar aided collision’. If there was no radar, there’ll be no collision. But because there was radar and a crew who could not use it properly, they ended up with a collision,” Ahmed noted.
According to him,he has heard of a modern twist on the same situation where modern engine and equipment technologies lock certain actions for safety reasons, and crews are unable to remedy the situation due to a lack of proper training.
“When a new technology comes and makes claims for safer seas, it can be more dangerous if not properly executed,” Ahmed argued.

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