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ISWAN Publishes Action Plan to Address Maritime Recruitment Crisis

Following a seminar hosted in Helsinki in November 2023, ISWAN - The International Seafarers' Welfare and Assistance Network - has published an action plan to address the ongoing recruitment crisis across the maritime sector.

Taking as its starting point the technological revolution in the maritime sector, ISWAN’s seminar sought to cast light on how the sector can reimagine the vocation of seafaring in a digital age. What changes will be needed for maritime employers to successfully recruit and retain the highly skilled seafarers who will be needed to power the decarbonised, increasingly automated vessels of the future?

Experts from industry, academia, trade unions, welfare organisations and active seafarers explored different facets of the problem and potential solutions. The overarching theme to emerge was the need to listen much more closely to what seafarers theselves have to say about the challenges of living and working at sea, and the resulting action plan aims to provide a springboard for continued collaboration across the maritime sector. 

ISWAN's plan calls for action in three key areas:

Fair Work
The section on Fair Work focuses on practical steps that the maritime sector can take to bridge the gap between current working conditions and seafarers’ aspirations. What does fair work mean for seafarers of today and how can companies reinvent their offer to current and prospective crew? ISWAN highlights that the maritime sector must be willing to invest more in seafarers’ working conditions and wellbeing in order to make the sector sustainable in the long term.

Inclusive Culture
Taking steps to build more diverse, equitable and inclusive cultures at sea is often highlighted as key to addressing the recruitment gap. The Inclusive Culture section calls on the maritime sector to commit to going further than minimum regulatory standards in order to address the barriers that prevent it from benefiting from a more diverse range of talents and backgrounds.

Changing Technologies - Impact on Wellbeing
Making technology work for seafarers is key. The maritime sector is undergoing technological transformation as a result of onboard connectivity, automation and the journey towards decarbonisation, and action points address the impact on seafarers’ wellbeing and the scope for technology to help to reinvent seafaring and restore its appeal in the digital age.

"The maritime industry is at a juncture in terms of being able to attract and retain the skilled seafarers that it will need to make a successful transition to zero carbon," said Simon Grainge, CEO of ISWAN.

"Seafaring can be a unique and rewarding vocation, but concerted, collaborative action is needed to make maritime careers genuinely safe, sustainable and inclusive. Before increasing efforts to raise the profile of the varied career paths it offers, the maritime sector must take committed action to ensure that it can provide fair working conditions and psychologically safe environments for the seafarers that it seeks to attract. We look forward to working with stakeholders across the maritime sector to take forward some of the initiatives identified in our action plan."

Actions and recommendations from ISWAN’s 2023 Seminar can be downloaded here.

ISWAN’s seminar was held in Helsinki on 16 November 2023 and hosted by the Finnish Seamen’s Service (FSS), a long-standing ISWAN member, as part of FSS’s 50th anniversary celebrations.

ISWAN is an international maritime charity which works to improve the lives of seafarers and their families with services, resources, strategies and advocacy. It operates SeafarerHelp - a  free and confidential multilingual helpline for seafarers and their families around the world – and Yacht Crew Help for yacht crew. ISWAN staff working in India and the Philippines provide humanitarian support to seafarers and their families in these regions, and administers relief funds to those in crisis or with urgent needs. ISWAN is funded by grants from foundations, membership subscriptions, sponsorship and earned income.

For more information, visit the website here.

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