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The future looks bright for SA Maritime Industry

Saimi 1

SAILING AHEAD: Some of the key speakers at the South African International Maritime Institute’s (SAIMI) Maritime Education and Training Conference in Cape Town this week were (from left) SAIMI CEO Professor Malek Pourzanjani, World Maritime University president Dr Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, SA Maritime Safety Authority acting CEO Sobuntu Tilayi and Klaveness Shipping Management’s head of crewing Torbjorn Eide. (Photo: Tanya Europa)

Technological advances and digitalisation are changing the face of the maritime industry – but rather than this being a threat to South African jobs, it opens up a myriad of opportunities, especially among the youth.

The advances were discussed during a two-day international maritime conference which wrapped up on Thursday. Organised by the Port Elizabeth based South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI), the conference had special relevance to the Eastern Cape, which boasts three commercial ports and where industries such as fishing, boat building and oil rig repair are growing and creating jobs.

Speaking from the Maritime Education and Training in the Digital Era conference, SAIMI spokesman Sam Venter said that she believed that the Eastern Cape would benefit immensely from the issues discussed, especially as the region’s oceans economy is showing growth potential across a number of areas.

“There's a host of exciting maritime industry opportunities opening up throughout the region. Significantly, the Nelson Mandela University has recently launched the Ocean Sciences Campus – a first such dedicated campus in the country. The university is also developing new maritime studies programmes, with a host of industry-related growth throughout the province.

“All of these will reap the benefits of proposals which emerged from the conference,” she said.

Graham Dreyden, representing South Africa’s largest employer of local seafarers, African Marine Solutions (Amsol), said: “We don’t need fewer people on board ships – we need smarter people on board.”

Dreyden said the younger generation would find it easier to adjust and offer value in multiple roles in the shipping industry, adding that 35% of Amsol’s 550 employees were classified as youth.

“Our challenge is how to prepare them for entering the industry. Big data and analytics will impact the whole shipping value chain and the seafarer’s capacity to manage data and make complex decisions.”

In another boost to the industry, a major private sector partner, Norwegian-based Klaveness Shipping Management, has identified South Africa as its new source of next-generation sea staff, after Romania and the Philippines, the latter of which supplies 400,000 sailors to the global fleet.
According to Klaveness’s head of crewing, Torbjorn Eide, the company has a long-term perspective on investment in South African maritime education and training, with engagement planned for the next five to 10 years.

To this end, he said Klaveness had signed a skills development agreement with the South African Maritime Training Academy, in partnership with SAIMI, and invested heavily in the country’s national cadetship programme.

“We see tremendous opportunities, both from a commercial engagement and people development perspectives,” said Eide.

But, he warned, the current retention rate of 54% of trainees could force Klaveness to re-evaluate its position in terms of skills development within the next two years.

“The quality of candidate is not the problem,” said Eide. “We need to identify the right people for the industry. The sea is not for all and this is something we may need to address more proactively in the future.

“To put it in perspective, there is a surplus of 15 000 officers in the Philippines – that’s what South Africa is competing against,” he said.
Eide said proactive interventions included building relationships with traditional leaders and communities to help address high rural unemployment rates.

“By recruiting future officers at an early age, from 16 to 19 years, and developing them through company-specific conferences, seminars and training programmes, we can secure a stable qualified crew roster and create careers for promising candidates.”

The conference, organised by SAIMI, was held at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and attended by leading national and global seafaring academics and employers. It brought together maritime industry players, government stakeholders and education providers to examine the impact of technology on the education and training of the country’s future maritime workforce.

Technology and Maritime sector growth: 

Opening the international conference on Wednesday, experts warned of a global shortage of 150,000 seafarers by 2025 and the exponential pace of technological development which would produce serious skills development challenges, and opportunities, for the South African maritime economy.

World Maritime University president Dr Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry highlighted the urgency of the situation and cautioned all industry players to adjust their sails and “think collaboratively instead of competitively”.

“As maritime countries, we should examine the needs of new technologies and tailor our maritime education to meet these needs and those for a sustainable future. It is not enough, and short sighted, to educate tomorrow’s leaders based on today’s labour market,” said Doumbia-Henry.
Under the national government’s Operation Phakisa, the oceans economy is predicted to contribute R177-billion to the GDP and between 800,000 and one million direct jobs by 2033.

SAIMI chief executive Professor Malek Pourzanjani said the maritime sector had a vital role to play in addressing the country’s unemployment and job creation challenges, but that skills development needed to keep up with the global digital demand.

“The digital revolution has changed all our lives. We must explore the changes required in maritime education and training to align with technological developments and meet global best practice standards,” said Pourzanjani.

He said technology would also play a key role as the medium of instruction, with the rise of e-learning, distance-based learning and simulator training.

Issued by the Good News Lab on behalf of SAIMI