August 24, 2021

Youth still optimistic about a bright future for seafarers

The South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI) recently heard from Generation Z (also known as the Zoomers) during an online Youth Dialogue on the future of seafarers.

The South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI) recently heard from Generation Z (also known as the Zoomers) during an online Youth Dialogue on the future of seafarers.

As the first generation to have grown up with access to the Internet, South African youth face numerous challenges - including issues of representation and diversity, a struggling economy coupled with a global pandemic. However, it was clear from their participation in the “Fair future for seafarers” all-youth dialogue hosted by SAIMI, that the youth knew exactly how those challenges could be addressed to ensure a bright future for seafarers. 

Inspiring hope, participants said a fair future for seafarers is everyone’s responsibility including the seafarers themselves. Participants in the webinar consisted of high school learners from Lawhill Maritime High School, Royal Cape Yacht Club, General Botha Old Boys Association and Sail Africa; university students enrolled in seafaring programmes at Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Nelson Mandela University, Durban University of Technology, and UMfolozi TVET College; as well as youth working in seagoing careers such as cadets and sailors. The webinar was facilitated by Royal Cape Yacht Club Academy Manager Lindani Mchunu.

The webinar took place on June 21 and was livestreamed on YouTube and Facebook. It was hosted as part of a build-up programme towards the 2021 celebration of the Day of the Seafarer themed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) as “Fair future for seafarers”. 

Discussion points captured during the webinar were based on three polling questions developed by the IMO to reflect on what a sustainable future for seafarers could look like. Highlights of the discussion points’ feedback from the youth participants, include:

What does a fair future for seafarers look like, considering technological developments, innovation, and the Covid-19 pandemic? 

Given the diverse nature of participants in the webinar, their responses to this question were also diverse. Those who were at university studying towards a seafaring qualification suggested that certain seafaring courses such as simulation training and preparing deck officers to go to sea should also be done through online platforms, because of Covid-19. 

Participants reflecting on their seafaring careers said crews onboard have been reduced from 50 to 20 due to continued technological advancement in the maritime industry. They suggested seafarers stay up to date with the latest technological innovations within the space.  

Other participants added that a fair future for seafarers should mean equality and diversity in all aspects such as race, equal pay, gender and nationality. Therefore, this implies that regardless of the advancements in education, training and technological development, the humanity aspect within the seafaring environment remains of paramount importance.

Who should be responsible for a fair future for seafarers?

In discussing this question, participants highlighted several stakeholders. It was suggested that at an international level, the IMO should be responsible for seafarers in general. In addition, training institutions, the industry, seafarers themselves and the government were identified to take equal responsibility for a fair future for seafarers. 

It was agreed by most participants that all the institutions should do their part. For example, training institutions, seafarers and the industry should create awareness about the opportunities that are in the sector for young people and women. The youth expressed a need for government to create a conducive environment by getting more vessels into the South African register to help seafarers get access to training berths.   

The session indicated a strong sense of collective responsibility, which highlights the importance of collaborative efforts and support within the entire system. 

Is the maritime sector doing enough to encourage diversity in the sector?

The respondents agreed that more work still needs to be done to cover all areas of diversity such as woman representation, nationality and persons with disabilities. Examples cited were that women representation only accounts for 2% worldwide in the maritime sector, particularly in the seagoing careers. The youth raised concerns over the treatment of women in this male-dominated environment, often far from shore onboard vessels. 

Participants passionately argued for extensive awareness and recruitment campaigns in various sectors of society such as townships and rural areas, including landlocked communities. Secondly, that cooperation and partnership between the training institutions and industry should be established to ensure that women participation, empowerment and safety while at sea is prioritised. It was further proposed that if the safety of women can be prioritised and ensured at sea, the number of women in the industry could grow. 

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