Training and recruitment
The Branch held a special meeting to discuss training and recruitment for the future Hong Kong fleet. This was a follow up meeting to the seminar organised by the HK Ship Owners Association and Marine Department.
We were very fortunate to have three special guests: Julian Parker, Secretary of the NI, who made a special trip here for the meeting; Professor Jens Froese, from Hamburg, who was also
our speaker for the December Branch Meeting; and Kjetil Bruun-Olsen, of Norwegian Ship Management. In addition several members in attendance had just attended a seminar in Singapore on a similar subject.
Branch chairman Tony Jestico opened the meeting, outlining the problems in Hong Kong. He mentioned that the seminar had been quite successful, with nine papers being read and of these five speakers were Institute members; 80 persons attended. The conclusions of the seminar were significant to the Branch meeting:
1 A single training establishment is required to train all categories of seafarers;
2. There is a need to look at entry qualifications to make sure they are realistic;
3. The possibility of a levy system to assist trainees both during pre-sea training and subsequently up to the time of taking the first certificate of competency should be explored;
4. There is a necessity to mount a campaign to inform school children, teachers and the public generally about the port of Hong Kong and marine activities which are organised and co-ordinated by Hong Kong companies, and connected with that the need for an efficient single recruitment centre;
5. Publicity material should be prepared for recruitment of seafarers especially for those to train as deck and engineer officers which makes mention of opportunities for experienced officers in shore based marine fields in Hong Kong;
6. Finally the possibility that a training vessel might be acquired should be investigated, preferably a sailing vessel, to develop and assist in the training of youngesters for a sea career.
Julian Parker commenced by providing information about the current activities of the Institute in London.
He then moved on to the main subject of the meeting, recruitment and training in Hong Kong. He pointed out that today it was cheaper for an owner to have a cheap crew than a hi-tech ship with low manning levels. He gave the example of owners paying $600,000 to a manning agency for a year to man a ship, which explained why problems sometimes arise when it becomes necessary to fly a crew member to or from the ship at the additional cost of say $1,000.
He then pointed out the anomalies that can occur with marine recruitment and operations by giving the example of the UK pilots who had just been decentralised to save money and the Dutch pilots who had just been brought under one organisation to save money!
In 1972 there were 1,000 officers being trained each year in the UK; now there are only 300, which is probably one of the smallest numbers of the large maritime nations. We were told that Norway has the same problems as Hong Kong and indeed many other maritime nations as well.
He finished by saying that it was necessary to identify what Hong Kong wanted before a solution could be found, whether we require so many officers to man ships or whether we need to recruit ultimately to fill the places in shore side jobs such as pilots, managers, surveyors, etc. The floor was then opened for discussion.
The chairman closed the meeting by saying that no solutions had been found, but, it was a very useful discussion. In general the meeting reached the same conclusions as the seminar.
Contributed by P. R. Owen, FNI
Seaways March 1990