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From seafarer to ‘e-farer’, shipping looks for the crews of tomorrow  

Sweden’s World Maritime University has taken major steps towards upgrading seafarers' education

Technological advancements and the need for the shipping world to change teaching methods were the main themes at the final day of Maritime Cyprus in Limassol on Wednesday.

Important key players in the maritime world, such as the president of the World Maritime University Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry and chief of US Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Credential Mayte Medina, among others, took part in a panel named “From Seafarer to E-farer”.

From the discussion it emerged how the training for a career in the maritime world is an ever-changing topic, and particularly in need of upgrading considering the recent technological advancements in the field.

“The traditional education model for prospective seafarers heavily relies on classroom training. This model is often outdated,” said Doumbia-Henry.

“Keeping up with the technology in the maritime world is extremely difficult, but we need to start implementing changes in the way we teach younger generations.”

Doumbia-Henry is taking practical steps to upgrade seafarers’ education at Sweden’s World Maritime University, a specialised institution founded in 1983 by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and under the wing of the United Nations.

The university offers postgraduate programmes in maritime and ocean-related studies, and continues maritime capacity building in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

“The ‘assault’ on the traditional learning in the maritime world is causing disruption. We must challenge our mindsets and upgrade an industry that is traditionally conservative.

“New human relations skills and IT skills are already paramount. Today’s seafarer must become tomorrow’s e-farer,” she concluded.

Her opinion was shared by Hing Chao, chairman of Wah Kwong Maritime Transport Holdings, one of the most significant shipping companies worldwide.

Chao also underlined the importance of offering a proper education to prospective seafarers.

“We as an industry need to attract young generations of seafarers. But we cannot do that if we offer an education that will no longer be useful once completed.

“We need to adapt to change and embrace it. Classroom teaching in China is now accompanied by practical courses taking place on ships, in shipping offices and in ports. It’s the way to go.”

P&O Ferries Head of Safety Grant Laversuch said that not only young generations, but also older ones need to update their knowledge.

“I started working on ships that had no technology at all,” he said. “Now I feel like I have to catch up with something new every time I step onto a newly built ship. It’s clear how training has to evolve as much as the technology.”

However, there is still room for traditional maritime training, said Columbia Shipmanagement president Mark O’Neil.

“As much as I see changes occurring every day in the shipping business, I think having a basic traditional training is still very important.

“Technology is not always 100 per cent reliable and people who work on ships and in ports need to know how to handle difficult situations even without the help of technology.

“We are still very far from unmanned ships and until that time, there will still be the need for traditional training.


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