28 January 2022

In recent years we read about scenarios where millions of people will be made unemployed due to automation and digitalisation. The reality seems to be developing differently, with major shortages of skilled workers in developed counties and in developing countries such as China and India. I also expect this to hit our industry – seaborne transportation – hard.

Most critical will be to attract and retain qualified and motivated seafarers. In many traditional seafaring nations, the seafaring career has already lost attractiveness, so that maritime academies struggle to fill their classes. The extremely poor treatment of seafarers during the ongoing COVID pandemic will exacerbate the shortage.

As Eva Rodriguez describes in this edition , we need to make a seagoing career more attractive for young people. We also need to provide a career track to young people in countries with favourable demographics, and where people are open to the opportunities a seagoing career can provide. Here we see great potential in Africa, and we strongly encourage our shipmanagement customers to support us in employing African cadets, ratings and officers.

Shipping has been slow to digitalise and automate, but with younger generations being digitally savvy, we have the opportunity to move a lot faster. BSM has multiple ongoing projects to dramatically improve the software and other tools we use onboard our vessels to ease the challenging tasks of our crews to make the vessel operation safer, more efficient, and to optimise the collaboration between the shipboard team and our shore organisation.

Speaking of the shore organisation, we also expect a war for talent here. Historically our industry has relied on seafarers coming ashore and taking over key shipmanagement roles. Since the seafarer pipeline for many nationalities, including European, Japanese, Taiwanese, Chinese is dwindling, at least in these countries it will be necessary to either recruit foreign ex seafarers – with work permit and other challenges – or to adjust our perception that certain roles can only be fulfilled by ex-seafarers. The latter can give us a welcome opportunity to improve the gender balance in our industry, particularly at the management level. At present only 1.2% of seafarers are woman, and we have not worked out yet how we can dramatically improve this.

We need to attract more talented young people into our organisation and to provide them with career prospects and the opportunity to participate in the lifeblood of international trade – shipping – in all its facets. These people want the chance to contribute to a better world, which we can facilitate through our day to day business and our sustainability initiatives.

Thanks for your attention and I hope you find the articles in this edition of BSM Highlights interesting.

Yours, Ian Beveridge