Generations Y, Z urge maritime industry to make human sustainability a strategic priority

The call for change is clear from the 188 young leaders from 27 different countries, who participated in the Future Maritime Leaders essay competition, organized by the Global Maritime Forum. Top issues in the essays are human safety, inclusion and diversity, health, and wellbeing, and securing future skills and competencies across the industry.

“It was very clear that young thought leaders in the maritime industry have strong visions of what it takes to attract a broad pool of talent. Their message is clear, the maritime industry needs to improve the overall approach to human sustainability, human wellbeing, and work conditions at sea,” says Chair of the selection committee, Christine Loh, Chief Development Strategist, Institute for the Environment, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

The top 30 competition participants and nine previous winners of the essay competition attended a virtual seminar in August 2022 to elaborate on their vision for the maritime industry. Their discussions resulted in a clear call on industry leaders to collectively improve on diversity and inclusion, flexibility, purpose and values, decent work conditions and safety, and overall better career opportunities spanning sea and shore.

“It gives me great hope for the future of the maritime sector to experience the passion and insightfulness from young thought leaders with strong aspirations for making human sustainability a strategic priority across the industry. We will continue to engage with the next generation of maritime leaders to amplify their voices and perspectives on how the maritime industry can improve,” says Susanne Justesen, Project Director, Human Sustainability at the Global Maritime Forum.

The essay competition aims to give students and young professionals aged 18-30 a voice in the debate about how the maritime industry can sustainably address maritime challenges and opportunities – and to give the industry a chance to listen. This year three winners from India, England, and the Philippines highlighted ways in which the maritime industry can significantly improve its approach to human sustainability.

Shaharaj Ahmed, a 22-year-old Economics Student at Yale-NUS College in Singapore, from the Philippines. 

In his essay entitled: “Cultivating humane labor practices in the maritime industry,” Shararaj argues that enforcing humane labor practices is the maritime industry’s most critical human sustainability issue. Many seafarers work longer hours and receive lower pay than stipulated in regulations or contracts. Shaharaj proposes to address these problems through stronger enforcement as well as the use of digital technology such as blockchain to give seafarers control of their data.

Apurva Chaubal, a 24-year-old Associate Voyage Manager with Maersk Tankers from Mumbai, India. 

In her essays, entitled: “Mental Health & Inclusion: Prioritizing the Need for Awareness & Training,” she discusses how seafaring can be restored as one of the most prestigious careers worldwide by addressing the concerns raised by existing seafarers, including long work hours, low pay, loneliness, and mental health, for example by providing tools such as a global mental health hotline.

James Helliwell, a 27-year-old Project Engineer with Shell in London.  

In his essay, entitled “Future Fuels must be safe for seafarers,” he underlines the need to put human sustainability and seafarer safety at the forefront before introducing new zero emission fuels such as ammonia and hydrogen which bring new safety risks. James advocates for the urgent need to do more research on how people onboard ships can interact with these fuels safely.

The winners of the essay competition will participate in Global Maritime Forum’s Annual Summit on 22-23 September in New York, representing the generation of maritime talent. The high-level meeting will convene more than 200 leaders from across the maritime spectrum to identify ways in which maritime stakeholders can take action to create the future we want and need.

Photo credit: iStock/ gorodenkoff

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