Vital research funded to examine ‘sea blindness’ and plug skills gap


queen-mary-ii-425066_1280Southampton Solent University is funding vital research to examine ‘sea blindness’, the lack of public awareness surrounding the shipping industry and plug a perceived skills gap.  The research aims to establish the extent of sea blindness and generate valuable baseline data that can be used to inform the development of a range of tools to raise public awareness about the industry.

Dr Kate Pike, Senior Research Fellow with the University’s Maritime Technology faculty (MARtec), leading the research says: “As an island nation we are absolutely dependant on shipping.  It is the life blood of the UK’s economy and responsible for 95% of all imports and exports, yet many people know less about the industry today than they did fifty years ago.”

The growing demand of a global population for goods has seen levels of international trade dramatically increase over the last four decades.  In the UK within the maritime sector, this translates to a contribution of around £31 billion pounds for the UK’s GDP.

In Southampton, home to the country’s number one cruise port and the third largest container port, this contributes £714 million to the local economy.  The port supports approximately 15,000 local jobs and 30,000 jobs within the Southampton cruise sector.  The maritime industry is also responsible for one in every 50 jobs in the United Kingdom.

Despite its importance, there is virtually nothing about the shipping industry included on the national schools’ curriculum, which is significant when you consider that it offers very real employment opportunities.

Ms Pike continued: “Many people are surprised to learn that only 2% of the world’s seafarers are female and of these women, 94% work either on cruise ships or passenger ferries.  Part of our research will examine whether this is a conscious career choice or if young people still at school or at sixth form college are simply unaware of the variety of careers at sea available to them.”

With an international reputation for its maritime courses, training and graduates, Southampton Solent University continues to respond to the skills gap within the industry.  Later this month, on 25th February, the University’s annual maritime conference will once more enable students from a range of maritime courses to learn from industry experts and, in the case of third year students, showcase their work.  Every year, this event generates employment for our graduates.

The industry will be approached for further funding as the project progresses.