Malaysia Prepares Seafarers, Maritime Professionals for Global Job Boom

Career prospects for maritime graduates is looking good, however, there is a need for continuing education.

Demand for well-trained and educated sailors and professionals in the global maritime industry will increase significantly in the coming years.  

In Malaysia, the prospects for graduates in the maritime industry is tremendous and most have been offered attractive packages from overseas, especially Singapore, said founder and executive chairman of Netherlands Maritime University College (NMUC) Dato’ Captain Razali Yaacob.  NMUC is a Dutch-Malaysian University College specializing in maritime education, training and consultancy services. 

According to him, there are boundless opportunities for rewarding careers whether on board ship or ashore within the maritime industry. 

The career outlook is good for seafarers and others engaged in the broader maritime sector including maritime lawyers, marine insurers, ship brokers and integrated shipping services providers, maritime economics and finance professionals such as providers of intelligence for global shipping and trade, medical doctors and other maritime health specialists.

Dato’ Captain Razali Yaacob
Founder and executive chairman of Netherlands Maritime University College (NMUC) Dato’ Captain Razali Yaacob.

More advance training and education needed

Training plays an important role in ensuring efficient continuity of the maritime business. As such, he said there is a need for more advanced programs in education and training for the maritime sector. “These programs need to be further enhanced for all sectors as the maritime industry continues to evolve with technological developments,” Captain Yaacob told Maritime Fairtrade. 

He said the rapid advancement in shipping related technologies have made ship operations highly complex and demanding, requiring higher technical, managerial and operational skills.

Hence, the manpower must be well educated and trained in shipping related technologies in order for the shipping industry to be efficient in all its endeavors, be it economic, safety or environmental protection. 

Appropriate education and training model for life-long learning is required to recruit, train and retain the best talents in the industry. According to him, higher education is equally important for seafarers to prepare them for a life-long career ashore. Building academic and operational competencies will enhance their mobility and allow them to permeate vertically and horizontally into society.

“We should look at maritime and oceans opportunities in their broadest perspectives. Maritime industry is more than just ships; It is broad and encompasses a wide range of activities connected with the sea,” Captain Yaacob said.

Preparing seafarers for shored-based jobs

The maritime industry covers a multitude of sectors and subsectors including ports, shipping, offshore & marine, maritime services, and oceans and marine.

“The average time a seafarer remains in a sea-going career is about 10 years. When seafarers ‘come ashore’ and seek positions in the shore based maritime industry, they need to have qualifications beyond a certificate of competency as demanded by most employers. 

“The challenge for maritime education is to provide properly constructed educational pathways to assist ex seafarers to be more employable within the shore based maritime industry,” he explained.

Such pathways ensure better qualified employees for the shore-based maritime industry as they offer more flexible learning for on and off campus and hybrid learning that integrate the best features of conventional face-to-face learning with technology-based online-learning.

At present, he said, seafarers are finding it hard to make career choices ashore because they are not appropriately educated. The present environment may not be conducive for lifelong learning due to restrictive work contract, unsupportive employers who are not willing to invest in their education, irregular time on land, high education fees and education background where only maritime related subjects are being learnt.

Ideally, all further maritime education should be provided by a university or college that is offering other streams such as science, social science and humanities, he reckoned.

“These education programs and services should be delivered in a more flexible manner, utilizing the best pedagogical mix of location, study pattern, teaching method, study material and delivery medium,” he said.

Flexible learning suitable for seafarers’ schedule

Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL) enables individuals who have work experience but lack of formal academic qualifications to pursue their studies at higher education institutions.

Captain Yaacob said maritime education and training should be pragmatic by taking into accounts the trainees/students’ career ambitions and varying expectations. It should entail collaboration between maritime educating and training institutes, shipping industry, employers and other relevant stakeholders.

When the career expectations can be addressed by a holistic approach, people are more likely to continue working within the larger maritime industry as they will become multi-skilled, resilient and more adaptive to the continuing changes in the maritime industry working environment, he said.

The Malaysia education blue print 2015 to 2025 addresses students’ needs and enable greater personalization of the learning experience. It is less focused on traditional, academic pathways and places an equal value on much-needed technical and vocational training.  The blue print focuses on outcomes over inputs and actively encourages the use of technologies and innovations to fulfil students’ learning needs.

Digital skills in high demand

The Fourth Industrial Revolution sees advanced robotics and autonomous transport, artificial intelligence and machine learning, advanced materials, biotechnology and genomics. “As such, some jobs will disappear, others will grow and jobs that do not even exist today will become commonplace,” Captain Yaacob said.

According to him, those who are seeking successful careers in the sea transport sector can set themselves apart by developing the attributes and acquiring the skills in demand. As such, seafarers’ education should take into consideration evolving technology, legislative changes and human/machine interface.

Seafarers require skills in digitalization as their vessels are becoming more digitized and thus they are more reliant on computerized technology. They also need skills to interact with computer systems that respond to difficulties in autonomous systems.

“There is a possibility to transfer tasks from the ship to the control center and be supported by highly advanced tools for optimization of the entire fleet. Crews might also start working more remotely, with responsibility for several vessels in the fleet through remote operation,” he added.

He said crews must ensure high vigilance in learning how to prevent against cyber threats, and what actions they can take to limit the effects of a breach in defenses. Advance skills in analytics and use of data in optimization of the fleet will also be necessary.

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