Philippines, Indonesia step up seafarer training to meet decarbonization challenge

The steady progress by key seafarer home nations in Asia, such as the Philippines and Indonesia, to equip their maritime workers with the skill sets needed to deliver a low and zero-carbon maritime sector, was showcased at the “Seizing opportunities for green shipping in Asia and the Pacific” conference organized by the Philippines’ Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) from May 16 to 17.

Timely action by governments and maritime authorities to enhance training and skills will position their seafaring nationals to embrace the high-quality job opportunities created by shipping’s green transition. A recent study by DNV has estimated that 800,000 seafarers will require additional training by the mid-2030s to handle the fuels, technologies and ships of the future.

Philippine Transmarine Carriers (PTC) CEO and International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) board member, Gerardo A. Borromeo said: “Shipping’s ability to decarbonize is highly dependent on having well qualified and highly skilled maritime professionals who can operate these vessels in a safe and efficient manner. 

“There is no doubt that the skill set for a career at sea is evolving. That is why we need to ensure that we provide the right kind of education and training so future generations of seafarers are able, skilled and ready to handle the new technologies and fuels on board that will increasingly be used in the years ahead. 

“Countries with a strong maritime workforce must keep pace with the changing requirements of our industry as we transition to a low and zero carbon future which will benefit everyone.”

Dynamic ambitions

With 252,392 of the world’s seafarers – 13.3% of global crew members – calling the Philippines home, the country’s ability to shift its training systems towards low and zero-carbon will impact the maritime sector’s progress on climate targets. The country has already taken steps to prepare with President Marcos launching the tripartite International Advisory Committee on Global Maritime Affairs (IACGMA) in January 2023. 

In addition to advising on how best to ensure the global competitiveness of Filipino seafarers, the committee is a key forum for the country to prepare future seafarers for a Maritime Just Transition. 

Sonia B Malaluan, Deputy Administrator for Planning at MARINA said: “Filipino seafarers have a long history of powering sea-borne trade and we hope to continue this tradition as we move towards decarbonized horizons. While this transition is certainly a challenge for the maritime sector as a whole, there are definitely opportunities to be seized by early movers, and we hope that our efforts will bear fruit for our seafarers and grant them access to high-quality jobs and long careers.”

Indonesia is also making inroads to upskill its maritime workforce in line with the emerging needs of the sector through its “Skills for Prosperity” program, delivered by the International Labor Organization (ILO). The country, which is home to about 7.6% (143,702) of the world’s seafarers, is modernizing its training regime through international partnerships that share knowledge as well as best practice. 

The United Kingdom-funded program includes the establishment of an industry advisory board for each of the four Indonesian polytechnics involved. This structure aims to promote closer collaboration between education and industry, and provide clear progression for graduates into skilled employment. 

Mary Kent, Chief Technical Advisor, ILO, said: “The partnerships from the Skills for Partnerships program are creating decent employment opportunities in the maritime sector, which will result in wider socio-economic benefits across the region. We look forward to sharing the lessons learned from this program so that other regions can make informed decisions about the best ways in which to prepare their future maritime workforces.”

Supporting seafarers

Maritime operations of the future are likely to be significantly more complex with new fuels and technologies being used in an increasingly digital and automated work environment – a fact that is likely to influence the upcoming review of the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) convention and code. 

Fabrizio Barcellona, the Seafarers and Inland Navigation Section Coordinator at the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) warned: “Although the actions by the Filipino and Indonesian authorities are admirable, there is still much to be done if we are to appropriately empower a global seafaring workforce of the future. 

“Improving the training environment is a very necessary first step – particularly given the concerns about STCW compliance and competency. This must be followed by upgrading to a new, modern and coordinated model for apprenticeships and cadet training with quality, enduring schemes backed by shipowners, unions and government. Collaboration between these sets of stakeholders is essential to deliver a Maritime Just Transition and safeguard their long-term standing as global leaders in seafaring.”

Bringing together stakeholders such as governments, shipowners, unions, training facilities and more, is essential, explained Sturla Henriksen, Special Advisor for Ocean, UN Global Compact. 

“Decarbonizing shipping is essential to combat the climate crisis and it is encouraging to see seafarer hubs across Asia and Africa taking action to equip their workers with the skills for future green operations. The global nature of this evolution means that no one is alone in tackling this issue and the Maritime Just Transition Task Force, which is primarily funded by Lloyd’s Register Foundation, is committed to providing resources to support stakeholders making this journey.”

Upcoming training

A new effort to produce a seafarer training framework for decarbonization with relevant training materials for seafarers and maritime education and training providers is expected to be launched in July 2023 under Phase 2 of the Maritime Just Transition Taskforce. 

Arsenio Dominguez, IMO’s Director of the Marine Environment Division elaborates, “Combating climate change requires action across the maritime sphere, both in offices on shore and on vessels at sea. We know that seafarers are eager to do their part to green shipping’s operations and this framework, alongside some of the free online courses developed by the IMO, can help to boost crew knowledge of how their daily operations impact the environment.”

Photo credit: C.Bierneza/ITF. Cleo Bierneza is excited about what a Just Transition can mean for young crew.

The best maritime news and insights delivered to you.

subscribe maritime fairtrade

Here's what you can expect from us:

  • Event offers and discounts
  • News & key insights of the maritime industry
  • Expert analysis and opinions on corruption and more