Asian seafarer hubs step up to meet decarbonisation challenge


The steady progress by key seafarer home nations in Asia, such as the Philippines and Indonesia, to equip their maritime workers with the skill sets needed to deliver a low and zero-carbon maritime sector, is being showcased at the ‘Seizing opportunities for green shipping in Asia and the Pacific’ conference organized by the Philippines’ Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA).

The two-day conference, which begins today, aims to explore the challenges and opportunities of shipping’s decarbonisation, including skills development for seafarers and a Maritime Just Transition.

Timely action by governments and maritime authorities to enhance training and skills will position their seafaring nationals to embrace the high-quality job opportunities created by shipping’s green transition. A recent study by DNV has estimated that 800,000 seafarers will require additional training by the mid-2030s to handle the fuels, technologies and ships of the future.

Philippine Transmarine Carriers (PTC) CEO and International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) board member, Gerardo A. Borromeo (pictured) says: “Shipping’s ability to decarbonise is highly dependent on having well qualified and highly skilled maritime professionals who can operate these vessels in a safe and efficient manner.

“There is no doubt that the skill set for a career at sea is evolving. That is why we need to ensure that we provide the right kind of education and training so future generations of seafarers are able, skilled and ready to handle the new technologies and fuels on board that will increasingly be used in the years ahead. Countries with a strong maritime workforce must keep pace with the changing requirements of our industry as we transition to a low and zero carbon future which will benefit everyone.”

The MARINA conference provides a platform to share regional perspectives, emission reduction priorities and promote green shipping in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. The event is organized in collaboration with the Danish Maritime Authority, and the IMO.

With 252,392 of the world’s seafarers – 13.3% of global crew members – calling the Philippines home, the country’s ability to shift its training systems towards low and zero-carbon will impact the maritime sector’s progress on climate targets. The country has already taken steps to prepare with President Marcos launching the tripartite International Advisory Committee on Global Maritime Affairs (IACGMA) in January 2023. In addition to advising on how best to ensure the global competitiveness of Filipino seafarers, the committee is a key forum for the country to prepare future seafarers for a Maritime Just Transition.

Sonia B Malaluan, Deputy Administrator for Planning at MARINA said: “Filipino seafarers have a long history of powering seaborne trade and we hope to continue this tradition as we move towards decarbonised horizons. While this transition is certainly a challenge for the maritime sector as a whole, there are definitely opportunities to be seized by early movers, and we hope that our efforts will bear fruit for our seafarers and grant them access to high-quality jobs and long careers.”

Indonesia is also making inroads to upskill its maritime workforce in line with the emerging needs of the sector through its ‘Skills for Prosperity programme in Indonesia’, delivered by the International Labour Organization (ILO). The country, which is home to about 7.6% (143,702) of the world’s seafarers, is modernizing its training regime through international partnerships that share knowledge as well as best practice. The United Kingdom-funded programme includes the establishment of an industry advisory board for each of the four Indonesian polytechnics involved. This structure aims to promote closer collaboration between education and industry, and provide clear progression for graduates into skilled employment.

Mary Kent, Chief Technical Advisor, ILO, said: “The partnerships from the Skills for Partnerships programme are creating decent employment opportunities in the maritime sector, which will result in wider socio-economic benefits across the region. We look forward to sharing the lessons learned from this programme so that other regions can make informed decisions about the best ways in which to prepare their future maritime workforces.”

Maritime operations of the future are likely to be significantly more complex with new fuels and technologies being used in an increasingly digital and automated work environment – a fact that is likely to influence the upcoming review of the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) convention and code.

Fabrizio Barcellona, the Seafarers and Inland Navigation Section Coordinator at the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), warns: “Although the actions by the Filipino and Indonesian authorities are admirable, there is still much to be done if we are to appropriately empower a global seafaring workforce of the future. Improving the training environment is a very necessary first step – particularly given the concerns about STCW compliance and competency.

“This must be followed by upgrading to a new, modern and coordinated model for apprenticeships and cadet training with quality, enduring schemes backed by shipowners, unions and government. Collaboration between these sets of stakeholders is essential to deliver a Maritime Just Transition and safeguard their long-term standing as global leaders in seafaring.”

A new effort to produce a seafarer training framework for decarbonisation with relevant training materials for seafarers and maritime education and training providers is expected to be launched in July 2023 under Phase 2 of the Maritime Just Transition Taskforce.

Arsenio Dominguez, IMO’s Director of the Marine Environment Division, says: “Combating climate change requires action across the maritime sphere, both in offices on shore and on vessels at sea. We know that seafarers are eager to do their part to green shipping’s operations and this framework, alongside some of the free online courses developed by the IMO, can help to boost crew knowledge of how their daily operations impact the environment.”