Digital Disruption an Opportunity for SA Maritime Sector

With significant digital disruption on the horizon, all South African maritime industry players must work together to navigate uncharted waters – and maximise the new opportunities – that lie ahead.

This was the word from World Maritime University president Dr Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry for the academics, government stakeholders and maritime companies who attended the recent “Maritime Education and Training in the Digital Era” conference hosted by the South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI).

“Many of the jobs currently available are forecast to become obsolete a few years from now. On the plus side, many new jobs will be created,” said Doumbia-Henry.

Echoing her sentiments, Danish Maritime Authority expert Andreas Nordseth warned of the “third technology jump” now facing the maritime industry, following the historical transition from wind to engine power, and the advent of containerisation.

In this context, he said both education providers and regulatory bodies were struggling to keep pace with industry developments and that seafarer training was fast becoming outdated – focusing on subjects such as celestial navigation, but not on imminent dangers such as cyber security risks.

As a result, the unprecedented and growing demand for technologically savvy seafarers could result in a predicted global shortage of 150,000 by 2025.

While the number of crew members required on board was shrinking, marine manufacturer Wartsila’s Mattheo Natali said many more on-shore jobs would be created, involving intelligent data management, which enable ships to operate more efficiently, safely and securely.

The SA maritime sector could provide the answer to global demand and many of the country’s own job creation challenges. However, SAIMI chief executive Professor Malek Pourzanjani warned that it was critical that maritime education and training delivered the right kind of candidates with the requisite skills.

“We must explore the changes required in maritime education and training to align with technological developments and meet global best practice standards,” said Pourzanjani.

Technology would not only be the subject of study but also the medium of instruction, he said, adding that this could include the use of e-learning strategies for upskilling active seafarers and simulator training to provide additional “sea time” for cadets.

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