SA Youth Poised to Ride New Wave of Shipping
South African youth may be better poised to ride the new wave of technology than their predecessors but they must be adequately prepared for the changing demands of the global fleet.
This was the recurring message from shipping industry representatives during SAIMI’s recent “Maritime Education and Training in the Digital Era” conference.
While the maritime sector could provide an opportunity to address the national youth unemployment crisis, which is currently hovering around 67%, the right training and the right attitude was critical, experts warned.
Graham Dreyden, representing South Africa’s largest employer of local seafarers, African Marine Solutions (Amsol), said the challenge was 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 will be crucial,” said Dreyden.
He said the younger generation would find it easier to adjust to changing technologies and offer value in multiple roles in the shipping industry, adding that 35% of Amsol’s 550 employees were classified as youth.
Norwegian-based Klaveness Shipping Management has also 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, Torbjørn Eide, the company has a long-term perspective on investment in South Africa, with engagement planned for the next five to 10 years.
A skills development agreement has already been signed with the South African Maritime Training Academy, in partnership with SAIMI, and Klaveness has invested heavily in the country’s national cadetship programme.
“We see tremendous opportunities, both from a commercial engagement and people development perspective,” said Eide.
But, Eide warned, low trainee retention rates and a culture of entitlement could force Klaveness to re-evaluate its position within the next two years.
“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.”
Eide said such interventions included building relationships with traditional leaders and their rural communities.
“By recruiting future officers at an early age, from 16 to 19 years, and developing them, we can secure a stable qualified crew roster and create careers for promising candidates.”