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Soft skills’ importance in a rapidly changing maritime industry

Soft skills’ importance in a rapidly changing maritime industry
The Editorial Team July 31, 2023

As efforts to decarbonize and digitalize the industry expand, seafarers and onshore personnel are expected to keep up with the rapidly evolving developments by improving their skills, panelists agreed during a dedicated panel on soft skills at 2023 Crew Welfare Week.

During the discussions, it became increasingly evident that soft skills are crucial for maintaining current crew members’ motivation skills and creating a healthy, attractive work environment that will attract future talent.

According to Rachit Jain, Founder & MD, Safe Lanes Consultants Pte Ltd, soft skills are and will continue to be important, particularly for successful leadership and problem-solving.

The industry is changing. We’re going to ship cleaner and make life onboard better and have better leadership. Advancing technology will bring better opportunities. … said Adam Lewis, Fleet Training and Development Manager, Zodiac Maritime Limited.

How technological advancement impacts seafarers

Speakers agreed that instead of eliminating the human factor, technology will make its importance more evident. Soft skills such as decision making, creativity, critical thinking and mindful leadership cannot, of yet, be replaced by software, which makes them more relevant than ever.

As technology becomes more prevalent, the role of the human is going to increase and not be replaced by autonomy.… added Adam Parnell, Director (Maritime), CHIRP, noting that technological advances will also be a great opportunity to attract new talent.

Capt. Dimitrios Melas, Deputy Training Manager, Angelicoussis Group, made the interesting point that people won’t be losing or keeping their jobs to technology, as is the common misconception, but rather based on their ability to interact with these technological advancements. Dimitrios Melas also pointed out that technology is probably going to take the burden of heavy administrational work from the seafarers, which is a positive development.

Moreover, Parnell asserted that technological advancements will considerably increase communication ties. This is very encouraging as lack of communication has been a sore spot in the seafaring career for centuries.

The importance of proper training

In the words of Dimitrios Melas, the evolving digitalization grade is constantly setting new skill demands. In particular, workers in the business are being asked to enhance their abilities in order to keep up.

All speakers agreed that training in soft skills should be a part of seafarers’ training. According to Lennart Ripke, Lennart Ripke, Director of Sales, Green-Jakobsen, a sizable portion of the workforce is underutilised. Meanwhile, he stressed the importance of soft skill training, noting that technology makes it harder for people to naturally develop soft skills because it reduces the number of people onboard.

Too many seafarers tell us that they’re not listened to, even when they have concerns. This is something that needs to change within the industry.… said Adam Parnell to showcase that a lack of soft stills and understanding can be detrimental to seafarers’ welfare and even their safety.

We are giving a lot of focus on technology but somehow, we are not giving equal importance and focus on the seafarer. As we are enhancing technology, we need to enhance seafarers.… agreed Rachit Jain while also expressing that technological advancement means drastic change in training. In addition, Rachit Jain believes that including soft skills in training can only be achieved through a mandatory regulatory framework.

We tend to work on an issue only when we see it coming up as a regulatory requirement.… said Rachit Jain

Attracting future talent

#1 Establishing new standards

As seafarer shortage levels reach record high numbers, the industry looks at ways in which it can attract more talent. As Adam Lewis said, young individuals entering the sector today will have to cope with an industry that will have to decarbonize during their lifetime. He believes that, as a result, the younger generation will be faced with a hard enough task without also having to put up with subpar living and working standards on board.

We shouldn’t necessarily expect young people to fit in our standards we should look at how we’re going to change leadership and communication to fit in with them.… said Adam Lewis

Adam Parnell expressed the opinion that the most successful companies are those that can retain, recruit and make the best of their people. According to Parnell, companies who spend money on crew welfare strategies are more successful in the long run.

#2 Accommodations onboard

Dimitrios Melas focused on more practical aspects of life onboard. Melas believes that the industry needs to improve living/working conditions of seafarers if it hopes to attract more people onboard. He proceeded to point out that some areas need urgent attention. These areas include:

A good cook to provide healthy and tasty meals;
A well-trained crew;
Spare parts availability in order to rid the crew of the pressure of having to find the parts last-minute;
Proper personal protective equipment to ensure the crew’s safety;
Less sea time so seafarers have time to rest and come in contact with their loved ones;
Better internet speed that will help provide seafarers with entertainment and communication ondoard;

#3 Promoting the seafaring profession

Lennart Ripke believes that in order to attract new talent, the world needs to know what an interesting and diverse job seafaring is and how it can expand a person’s horizons. Lennart Ripke pointed out that due to the very nature of the job, seafarers are faced with varying challenges that they must overcome in the middle of nowhere. This teaches them a variety of skills and teaches them not only how to navigate a ship, but life itself.

Adam Parnell stated the seafarer’s status should be updated, and the world should recognize how important their duty is. In Parnell’s opinion, better status can inspire more people to pursue a career onboard.

Few people, according to Dimitrios Melas, are genuinely aware of what working at sea entails. He thinks that alongside other professions, seafaring should be promoted as a career option from a young age. Crew interacting with young children is one way to accomplish this in order to present their profession and encourage them to pursue it in the future, according to Melas.