The 2021 CAREER4SEA Forum took place virtually on December 15th, 2021, focusing on ways to invest in the maritime workforce of the future and develop their skills, considering the technological transformation and the key trends of the market.
he event was organized by SAFETY4SEA having as lead sponsors the following organizations: MacGregor and SQEMARINE. Other sponsors were: ABB, American Club, ARCADIA SHIPMANAGEMENT CO. LTD, Blue Planet Shipping Ltd, Bureau Veritas, Capital-Executive Ship Management Corp., Capital Gas Ship Management Corp., Capital Shipmanagement, CR Ocean Engineering, Döhle Seafront Crewing (Manila) Inc., Dorian LPG, Eastern Mediterranean Maritime Limited (EASTMED), ERMA FIRST, EURONAV, Green Jackobsen, Latsco Marine Management Inc., MarineTraffic, Metropolitan College, OCEANKING, Palau International Ship Registry, RINA, RISK4SEA, SHIP MED CARE, Sun Enterprises Ltd, The Swedish Club, Synergy Group, THOME GROUP, Tsakos Group of Companies, UK Club, WALLEM, World Link Communications.
As digitalization continues to evolve, the shipping industry faces ongoing challenges, including keeping pace with technology, adapting to changes and meeting the growing demands of stricter regulations. To respond to these developments successfully, industry requires a diverse, multidisciplinary, and well-trained workforce and a strategy to attract new talents.
Panel #1 – Shipping Now & Tomorrow
Atty. Iris Baguilat, President, Döhle Seafront Crewing (Manila), Inc.; Mrs. Jillian Carson-Jackson, President, The Nautical Institute; Mr. Konstantinos Kyrou, Deputy DPA/CSO, HSQEE Officer, Capital Ship Management Corp.; Dr. Ioannis Lagoudis, Assistant Professor Dept of Maritime Studies, University of Piraeus and; Mrs. Elpi Petraki, President, WISTA Hellas, discussed about the key challenges for maritime professionals due to the pandemic and new trends.
Experts said that industry awareness, digital transformation, diversity & inclusion, environmental focus, mental health are the key trends that we are currently witnessing within the maritime industry. We are living in a fascinating era, they all agreed, and highlighted the many challenges arisen from the pandemic. In that regard, maritime professionals should learn to navigate through ‘rough waters’, to manage disruptions and thus we need to embrace diversity and be flexible and prepared in order to manage everything new that is coming up. This is actually an important lesson learned from the pandemic which demonstrated the power of collaboration and that shipping is resilient. Another new trend is ESG; the concept of ESG shows everything is inter connected; there are expectations that our industry should continue to support and therefore, we cannot see maritime as an individual industry. In this context, panellists discussed how the maritime is being seen by others and mentioned that many people still have not realized the value of our seafarers’ work. As such, industry stakeholders need to join forces and continue their efforts towards. This is also vital for attracting new talents.
Considering the technological developments, there are significant opportunities for the young generation that come with challenges associated with new equipment used. In that regard, industry should focus on training and building confidence with the use of data and innovation. Since many kids are now very familiar with new technology, we need to emphasize more on adaptation. In essence, the matter is not how to use new technology but how to adopt the right mindset in order to use this technology to our benefit and acquire innovative thinking. Educational institutions have a mere responsibility on this challenge; as such, they need to understand key trends and provide the proper tools and research programs. What is more, experts emphasized on the importance of psychological safety to embrace new talents but also retain our seafarers as well as to take more actions towards diversity, inclusion and equality in order to ensure a motivated workforce.
Panel 2 – The perfect applicant
Mrs Vicky Apostolopoulou, Business Development Executive, School of Maritime Studies, Metropolitan College; Capt. Ioannis Besis, HSQE & Vetting Manager, Eletson Corporation; Mr. Simon Frank, Chief Human Resources Officer, Thome Group; Capt. Christos Gianneios , Crew Manager, Niovis Shipping Co. S.A.; Mrs. Areti Mystiroudi, HR Business Partner, MarineTraffic and; Capt. Bikramjit Sandhu, Crewing Recruitment Manager, Euronav focused on soft skills and online training challenges.
Experts of Panel 2 referred briefly to key trends and requirements for the perfect applicant for the maritime industry, highlighting the importance of soft skills. They also shared their experience with remote training, acknowledging that it is not easy; the more technical the course is, the more difficult the training becomes; however, the technology is in favour, offering many tools and advanced platforms. There are a number of challenges, but overall, given the pros and cons, at the end, the outcome is positive. Panellists said that in no way it will replace face to face training and many people would like to go back to classrooms. However, people are aware that online training gives the opportunity to get updated at first hand and resolves many practical issues. Furthermore, new platforms deliver online training courses in different languages, supporting the learning experience with time to prepare and Q&As. Experts agreed that technology is a pull and push in the market and gives solutions to several challenges and we are going to see much more options in the future. In that regard, the faster we adjust, the better it will be. The key issue to move forward though with online training, is to consider how to ensure engagement and motivation.
Panelists also highlighted the importance of soft skills for the industry and agreed that it is now time to embrace these with training. Leadership, resilience, teamwork, situational awareness, communication are among the important soft skills which we need to focus on in order to deal with the new generation which comes with a new mindset and new set of requirements and skills. Overall, soft skills influence the way we work and interact with others and they are hard to acquire and develop because they need time and practice. Working through coaching can be an effective way of learning. Also, younger generation going onboard is familiar with technology and new roles will emerge. Technology cannot replace soft skills but mainly technical skills. Digitalization and automation are transforming onboard and ashore the industry. The challenge is the quick pace of this transformation and thus, creativity, innovation and forward thinking are vital in order to adapt. Furthermore, problem solving and teamwork will help to remain productive and overall, we need to think out of the box and produce innovative ideas for a new approach. Closing the panel, experts said the industry has many sectors and it is a great place to be, offering many exciting career options, suggesting to young people to embrace diversity and be prepared to invest in knowledge and self-development.
Panel 3 – Life Onboard
The panel gathered Mr. Yrhen Bernard Sabanal Balinis, Ordinary Seafarer (O/S) MRIN, AMNI, SIMarEST; Capt. Megas Giannakopoulos, Master, Euronav; Capt. Dimitrios Melas, Master, Angelicoussis Group; Capt. Kostas Strikos, Master, Angelicoussis Group and; Capt. Stylianos Zygouris, Captain Class A’, Eastern Mediterranean Maritime Limited, who shared their personal experience from their career at sea, challenges faced with the COVID-19 crisis and lessons learned from working at sea. Citing their personal story, they touched upon the connectivity issue and challenges with cooperation with different personalities onboard to highlight that adaptation and flexibility are key requirements while to be open minded and embrace diversity are prerequisites. They also gave advice to young people who would like to follow a career at sea and mentioned what makes them to be motivated everyday, making work and life at sea such an exciting experience, despite all difficulties.
Panel 4 – Shipping industry as an attractive working environment
Capt. John Dolan, Deputy Director/Loss Prevention, Standard Club; Mrs. Vasso Kaperoni, Crew Manager, Stealth Maritime Corporation; Mrs. Aggeliki Saranti, Crewing Recruitment Officer, Euronav; Dr. Luiza Shahbazyan, Founder, The Pivot Company; Capt. Sokratis Tigkos, Crew & Marine Manager, Omicron Ship Management Inc. and; Ms. Christina Tsimpouklidi, Claims Assistant, American Club suggested ways to make shipping an attractive industry for the new talents.
Experts of this panel noted that we are living in challenging times but also very exciting as there are many opportunities available for innovation and investments within the maritime industry. This is actually a key message for new people who would consider joining the maritime industry. Albeit the difficulties due to COVID-19, critical issues, i.e. decarbonization, digitalization, cyber security, are creating opportunities and many options for new joiners. Experts also referred to the digital transformation, highlighting that technology is making the industry more sophisticated and the ships more automated. Overall, the world is changing and shipping follows; therefore, we need to adjust to and gain new knowledge and experience. Especially, after COVID-19 era, many things will be different. Panelists briefly mentioned the difficulties faced due to the pandemic restrictions but they concluded that this crisis actually reflected how resilient industry is shipping, giving an optimistic outlook for any future challenge.
Referring to future trends, experts agreed that ESG is an emerging topic to focus on but still needs time to define its dimensions and find a new balance. Shipping responds to demand and the market now demands ESG since customers are becoming more and more conscious of how the final products were received. Therefore, if a company wants to be sustainable, ESG is an integral part of its business. What is more, industry should focus more on diversity; apart from gender, diversity has to do with the age, race, sexual orientation. Diversity exists in shipping, take for example the crew of a ship. In order to move forward, we should be open minded and able to attract people who are capable to contribute to the industry, embrace and accept the differences. But first and foremost, we need to overcome several stereotypes. It is a big step from being a diverse industry to being an industry that takes advantage of diversity. Shipping is vital to embrace diversity for resilience, sustainability and prosperity, they also highlighted. Concluding the discussion, all experts advised the young generation to invest in continuous learning and self development, have curiosity and love for what they do. In addition, a high sense of integrity, flexibility and open mindset are vital to move forward.