Asian seafarer hubs step up to meet decarbonization challenge

The Philippines and Indonesia, which are home to just under 21% of the world’s seafarers, are taking action to support their seafarers in developing modern skill sets as shipping decarbonizes.

Manila, Philippines, May 15, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- 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, will be showcased at the ‘Seizing opportunities for green shipping in Asia and the Pacific’ conference organized by the Philippines' Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA). The two-day conference, which begins today, aims to explore the challenges and opportunities of shipping’s decarbonization, including skills development for seafarers and a Maritime Just Transition.

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 says “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.”

The MARINA conference provides a platform to share regional perspectives, emission reduction priorities and promote green shipping in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. The event is organized in collaboration with the Danish Maritime Authority of Denmark, and the International Maritime Organization (IMO). 

Dynamic ambitions

With 252,392 of the world’s seafarers — 13.3% of global crewmembers — 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 programme in Indonesia', delivered by the 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 programme includes the establishment of an industry advisory board for each of the four Indonesian polytechnics involved, which aims to promote closer collaboration between education and industry, and provide clear progression for graduates into skills employment. 

Mary Kent, Chief Technical Advisor, International Labour Organization, said: “The partnerships from the Skills for Partnerships programme 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 programme 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) warns, “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 the long term standing as global leaders in seafaring.”

Bringing together stakeholders such as governments, ship owners, unions, training facilities and more, is essential, explains 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,” he explains.

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 IMO, can help to boost crew knowledge of how their daily operations impact the environment.”

Seafarers can access the IMO’s free Energy Efficient Ship Operation training programme on the UN Climate Change Learning Partnership website.

Notes to Editors

About the Maritime Just Transition Task Force

The Maritime Just Transition Task Force was established during COP26 in November 2021, by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), the United Nations Global Compact, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The Task Force aims to support a just and human-centred decarbonization of the shipping industry. The Task Force is grateful to its primary funder, Lloyd’s Register Foundation, and to its programme partner, the Singapore Maritime Foundation. More information on the Maritime Just Transition Task Force can be found on the websites of the UN Global Compact, the International Chamber of Shipping and the International Transport Workers’ Federation.

About the Partners

United Nations Global Compact

As a special initiative of the United Nations Secretary-General, the UN Global Compact is a call to companies worldwide to align their operations and strategies with Ten Principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. Our ambition is to accelerate and scale the global collective impact of business by upholding the Ten Principles and delivering the Sustainable Development Goals through accountable companies and ecosystems that enable change. With more than 18,000 companies and 3,800 non-business signatories based in over 101 countries, and 65 Local Networks, the UN Global Compact is the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative — one Global Compact uniting business for a better world.

International Chamber of Shipping

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) is the principal international trade association for merchant shipowners and operators, representing all sectors and trades and over 80% of the world merchant fleet.

International Transport Workers’ Federation 

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) is a democratic, affiliate-led federation of transport workers’ unions recognised as the world’s leading transport authority. We fight passionately to improve working lives; connecting trade unions and workers’ networks from 147 countries to secure rights, equality and justice for their members. We are the voice of the almost 20 million women and men who move the world, including over a million seafarers working in domestic trade and international shipping.

About the Primary Funder

Lloyd’s Register Foundation

Lloyd’s Register Foundation is an independent global charity with a unique structure and an important mission: engineering a safer world. We reduce risk and enhance the safety of the critical infrastructure that modern society relies upon in areas such as energy, transport and food. We do this by supporting high quality research, accelerating technology to application and through education and public outreach. Our unique structure comes from the fact that we own a significant trading company, Lloyd’s Register (LR). We share the same mission and work together to make the world a safer place.

About the Programme Partner

The Singapore Maritime Foundation

Established in 2004, the Singapore Maritime Foundation (SMF) is a conduit between the public and private sectors to accomplish the twin mission of developing and promoting Singapore as an International Maritime Centre (IMC); and to attract, engage and grow a talent pipeline to position Maritime Singapore for continued growth. 


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