On 30th September 2021, the World celebrated the 43rd World Maritime Day!
I woke up early on that morning thinking that I’ll write a post about it on my LinkedIn and Instagram page with the intention of wishing the Maritime Industry on this auspicious day.
But as soon as I logged in, I was subjected to yet another message stating something on the lines of “My name is XYZ, I completed my training from ABC Maritime University, in B-tech Marine course in 2017. I come from a poor family and my parents have taken a hefty loan to complete my education. I have applied to 50 shipping companies but have received no response and now some agent is claiming if I cough up 4 lakh rupees, he will help me join a ship in an ITF company. I am in deep trouble. Please help me sir”.
After reading this disquieting message, I SIMPLY STOPPED. I did not post my cheery wishes for World Maritime Day. My conscience just didn’t allow me to type the word “HAPPY”.
On average, I probably receive 10 such messages every day on all my social media platforms. On some days, I even see messages from 4 engineers who have completed their exams and are still jobless! Surveys have been done (including by yours truly), circulars have been published, the IMU CET has been cancelled yet again and thousands of students have once again enrolled in courses in the various maritime training institutes all over the country. We have 1000’s unemployed, a few thousand UNEMPLOYABLE (have completed their pre sea training almost 4-5 years ago) and additional 1000’s who are lining up to be a part of this number.
THIS is definitely a MAYDAY situation!
But who is to blame for this situation? And how can we resolve it?
Frankly, this issue is not a “one party to blame” matter. It’s also not and neither is it a situation that can be instantaneously solved with the wave of a Harry Potter-like magic wand. but Rather, it requires the attention of numerous all stakeholders, as well as plenty of thought and strategic planning by a host of entities involved.
Shipping Companies are of the opinion that the intake into the maritime colleges should be regulated, while & institutes are of the opinion that companies should create more jobs.
The latter Some even say, “‘We have spent CRORES in setting up the training infrastructure as mandated that was required by the education and maritime regulators. – How do can we recover our money without increasing our intake?” ‘Catch-22 situation? You betcha!
Some Ship managers already have & some more will open their own training institutes catering to their own requirements. This simply means that the students in non-company attached institutes will have to fend for themselves.
There is a term called “SPONSORSHIP LETTER” which has nothing to do with sponsorship in monetary terms but is more of a “LETTER OF INTENT” for students who choose to enrol in the one-year DNS or GME courses. Ship Managers are rightfully of the further opinion that they cannot foresee their requirement of cadets 3-4 years down the line and hence cannot provide this LOI for the degree courses. This is also a rather hard-hitting truth. And then we have THOSE who take undue advantage of this situation and fleece students (even junior officers) and leave them with unfortunate situations of working on sub-standard ships, on sub-standard wages and in many cases- questionable sea time. This is the SAD BUT TRUE reality of the next generation of maritime cadets and trainees from India.
THIS is definitely a MAYDAY situation!
We at OFFING have written to various shipping companies and associations to come together, form a think tank with us and help this ship from sinking. We whole heartedly appreciate that this is not something that everyone will contribute towards and are also acutely aware that a long journey lies before us. However, that does not become a reason for us to not attempt to carry out a rescue mission.
The regulators have proposed a method to somewhat regulate ‘Intake’ in the future – But, by then – we will have thousands more who are Unemployed! And we already have those who are working towards GOING AROUND that regulation
The situation gets worse if we are to see any metal in the latest report from BIMCO which predicts a shortage of officers by 2025. Our cadets and junior engineers are not being employed and this will create a dent in the road map (if any) towards solving this problem.
If these are the problems, WHERE are the answers?
ONE suggestion from our end is that shipping companies should be urged to hold common entrance tests (rather than empanelling a few colleges) for all students who have successfully passed their courses from DG approved institutes so that a fair opportunity can be given to all. It is time to also regulate the intake of students and ensure that it is in line with the actual requirement. We of course understand that a little surplus is bound to be generated.
Turning your face away from the fire does not negate the existence of the fire itself. In fact it means that the flames are ever growing, the fire is causing more damage and we may soon reach a point of no return.
This is NOT a HAPPY International Maritime Day 2021 for students whose goal is to be a part of the Maritime industry. That’s why I decided not to post a congratulatory message on social media. And that’s why I urge the Maritime fraternity to bond together and save this sinking ship. BEFORE IT’s TOO LATE!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Capt. Purnendu Shorey is the co-founder of Offing Group and has over three decades of experience in the maritime industry. His expertise includes – areas such as Marine HR, training, Maritime Surveying. His company has also conceptualized and hosted three successful editions of NAUGHTICA – the world’s largest inter college fest of maritime education (for more info, check www.naughtica.in)
Feel free to write to him at – firstname.lastname@example.org
Website – www.offing.biz