ATTRACTING AND RETAINING TALENT IN THE MARITIME INDUSTRY: IRCLASS ACADEMY EVENT SHOWS THE WAY FORWARD

17 Mar 2015

At a time when the global shipping industry is going through an unprecedented and extended downturn, the overriding challenge is to stay afloat and wait for the tide to turn. Viewed from the HR perspective, while companies need the competencies and skillsets to stay afloat during the rough times but it is also crucial to have the talent pool in place to set the course when the weather improves.

Recognising the importance of attracting and retaining talent in the maritime industry, IRClass Academy of the Indian Register of Shipping organise an expert panel discussion on 10 March 2015 to discuss on the theme: Maritime Professional Development in India: Beyond Mandatory Courses.

The invited panel comprised of: Dr. Sujata Naik-Tolani – Chairperson of Tolani Shipping Co., who acted as the Chairperson of the panel; M.V. Ramamurthy, President (Shipping), Reliance Industries Limited; Capt. Sunil Thapar, Director, Shipping. Corporation of India; Dr. B.K. Saxena, Principal, Tolani Maritime Institute; and Capt. Milind Patankar, CEO of Transworld Bulkcarriers.

In his address, Deepak Shetty, Directorate General of Shipping, Government of India, pointed to a critical area for improvement: At 13% of the GDP, the cost of logistics in India is one of the highest in the world. He added,

“Logistics is an area that could offer opportunities to non-seafarers as well as seafarers – provided right competencies are developed. For maritime professional development, the course design must be contemporary and at the same time, futuristic and be driven by employability. Detailed gap analysis, identification of critical competency needs of the industry and a clear definition the individual’s future professional role are crucial”.

Chairperson of the panel, Dr. Sujata Naik-Tolani started the proceedings by raising a series of questions:

“There was a time when seafarers used speak with pride about their employers and spend their entire sea career with a single company. What changed the situation? Why are today’s seafarers seeking shore based employment sooner than their predecessors?”

All the panellists agreed that seafarers seeking shore-based employment early on is the norm today. With this as a given, they must begin their preparations much earlier. These preparations spread across multiple fronts: Career counselling, managing personal finances, preparing for changes that occur when the transition is made – including changes in income levels, counselling for working in diverse teams in nonmarine environment and work culture, acquiring commercial knowledge and basic understanding of financial management, computer skills, etc.

When the panel probed further and the invited audience, which included a representation of serving seafarers to join the debate, quite a few surprises emerged.

Firstly, it became clear that maritime professional development in India has global implications. The reason is simple: Indian managers are present in every conceivable maritime activity across the world.

The message that came out clearly from the deliberations of the panel was that one should be constantly willing and eager to “go back to classroom” to unlearn and relearn.

Forward-looking shipping companies can demonstrate that they care for the future career prospects of their seafarers by actively supporting above preparations and planning. Some of these skills could in fact, directly benefit the shipowners and help to meet their own requirement of managerial talent. This approach will also enhance the brand image of the shipping company improve recruitment quality and retention.

IRClass Academy, on its part, is gearing up to mould and shape India’s maritime professional talent. The starting point would be to reach out to the seafarers and support them in preparing for their future shift to employment ashore. The exercise will begin with career counselling and delivery of short courses that address their future roles. When they finally come ashore, the IRClass Academy will work closely with them so that they will hit the ground running.

To kick-off the initiative, the Academy will soon launch a series of courses that address the transition of returning seafarers to become superintendents.

URP Sudhakar, Head of IRClass Academy said,

“We will surely leverage India’s proven abilities in the IT and software sectors. Our courses will be developed and delivered using the most advanced IT tools and e-learning will be the norm”.

According to C. Sriramamurthy, the Chief Operating Officer of IRS,

“The value proposition by IRClass Academy is a combination of improved onjob performance and industry-recognised qualifications. To this end, the Academy will develop partnerships with the industry and collaborate with leading institutions and universities”.