A campaign to address the global shortage of seafarers, especially officers, which threatens the very future of the international shipping industry, has been launched by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in association with the International Labour Organization, the "Round Table" of shipping organizations - BIMCO, ICS/ISF, Intercargo and Intertanko - and the International Transport Workers' Federation.
The campaign calls on governments, industry and IMO, supported by ILO and other international organizations, to take specific actions, within their areas of influence, to increase the recruitment of seafarers to tackle the problem.
A recent report issued by maritime industry analysts Drewry Shipping Consultants assessed the current shortfall of officers in the global shipping fleet to be some 34,000, against a total requirement of 498,000. Moreover, based on Drewry's fleet growth projections, and the assumption that officer supply will only increase at the current rate, the report predicts that, by 2012, the officer shortfall will have grown to 83,900.
"As everyone in shipping is aware, the global shortage of seafarers, especially officers, has already reached significant proportions and is now a source of genuine concern to all involved in the industry," said IMO Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos, speaking at the launch of the campaign.
The shipping industry can provide the basis for a fulfilling and satisfying life-long career and the problem is one of recruitment, rather than retention in the profession, he added, noting that this required a shift in the public perception of shipping, particularly amongst the young.
"I have long been an advocate of the need to promote the industry and improve its public image. Outside the industry itself, the wider public has little conscious perception of the vital role that shipping plays in everyday life and this, clearly, needs to change," Mr. Mitropoulos said, adding that all the organizations associated with the 'Go to Sea!' campaign were united in wanting to address concerns over the future supply of quality manpower to the shipping industry and in taking positive steps for that purpose.
Amongst specific calls for action in the campaign document, the shipping industry is urged to take the lead and more can to promote itself through the media, in particular the electronic media. The industry should continue to provide support for and endorse campaigns aimed at improving its image and use some key industry figures as examples of career progression. It is also urged to do more to make life on board and away from home more akin to the life enjoyed by others ashore; to encourage women to work in the seafaring profession; and to promote the industry at non maritime-related events.
Governments are asked to give greater prominence to the maritime perspective, by doing more to support and encourage the shipping industry in any initiatives it takes to enhance its image and to remove adverse actions that may damage that image. Maritime training facilities need to be resourced adequately (both in financial and human resource terms) to ensure a supply of competent seafarers. Governments could do much to promote a wider take-up of a sea career through, for example, recognition of sea service instead of compulsory military service, training of jobless persons and promoting the career for women.
IMO itself will develop a page on its public website highlighting the types of career paths available to seafarers, through links to industry sites. While on missions abroad, where practicable, the Secretary-General will visit maritime and non-maritime training facilities and seafarer organizations to express support and address both maritime and non-maritime Government departments to promote shipping and seafaring. And the ILO, which promotes the objective of decent work for all, has adopted several instruments directly relevant to the campaign and will support it in every way possible.
IMO - the International Maritime Organization - is the United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.