Industry players urge that critical training must not be cut to save costs

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Major industry players have raised significant concern over the future of the shipping sector as owners and managers seek to cut costs by freezing training, causing a potentially “huge demographic time bomb” according to The International Shipping Federation (ISF) .

Natalie Shaw, Secretary of ISF, warned that “there is still a growing shortage of officers, and this is a real danger to the industry if people cut back on training in the current climate to save costs. While it might not be so much of an issue now, it could potentially cause a big demographic time bomb when the market situation improves.

“The first thing that tends to go in an economic downturn is training, and owners should certainly not stop training but should continue to invest in it. When the market situation improves, with the age demographic of the population we’ve got, if people don’t invest in training now we will have a real shortage of officers, which will cause a huge problem in three or four years time,” she added.

Despite the inclination to cut costs in such tough economic conditions, owners and managers are being urged not to cut back on sufficient investment in crew, and although the worrying shortage over the last few years is now lessened as the downturn eases pressure on crew demands; there are considerable risks to future crew competence and availability.

Jon Osborne, Managing Director of Bibby Ship Management, said: “The last thing that should be cut back on is crew competence and training, because no matter what the economic environment is, safety has to be paramount in the industry in which we operate.”

He added: “I really think now is the time to invest in training – it’s critical to all ship owners and managers to invest in competent crew because we are all aware that the quality of seafarers is under the microscope, and over the last 10 to 15 years, there has been a perception that the quality of seafarers has declined, and as an industry we really have to address that.”