The recent financial crises have affected everyone in the maritime industry. Ship Jobs are scarce, though everyday you might hear in news that some top-notch company took in five new ships or increased its pool of employees. Strange it might seem to be, the fact remains that the gray clouds of unemployment are still not completely off the marine market place. The top rank professionals will swim smoothly, as they have always; however, those at the bottom has and will have to bear the brunt.
Talk to a freshly graduated junior engineer or deck cadet and I bet the only thing you would hear about is of getting a decent break (or even on any damn shitty ship would also do). They want jobs badly, I mean really bad! And why would they not? There are many who have taken loans for their maritime training and even have mortgages to clear off. In fact, that is what every one of us would do once we pass out from the college. Look for jobs! Right?
Unfortunately, the “situation of crises” has become a breeding ground for job agents and fraud shipping companies to do profitable business. They are charging $2000-$3000 dollars in return for a break; not to mention, one cannot expect it to be in some hot-shot company.
Sadly, these fresh graduates have started to succumb to the situation, and have even started considering shelling out the “asked price”. Result? Some have already received the much desired break, some are looking for sources to finance them, and some have fallen prey to fraud agents and shipping companies, who have taken the money and disappeared in thin air.
It’s a grim situation out there, where no one knows what to do and whom to blame. So, as the blaming-game continues, we try to pen down seven important points that we believe have been the real reason for the present dilemma.
1. Supply & Demand Imbalance
It might sound cliché, but the fact remains that the lack of equilibrium between the supply and demand of fresh professionals in the marine industry is the main reason behind the dearth of jobs, especially for newly graduates. Maritime academies are churning out marine engineers and deck cadets, doing their jobs pretty well and making huge profits, irrespective of the market condition.
However, they can’t be blamed because one cannot shut the institute for one year and then re-open it again whenever the need arises. Today, the need for deck cadets is less, tomorrow it can be more. So who is to blame? Probably the authority that gives the permission to open new institutes every month is at fault. However, the bottom line is until a balance is created between the demand and supply of seafarers, the scarcity of jobs will persist.
2. Inability of the Governmental Authority to take Concrete Steps
Governmental authorities should take concrete steps to solve the issue of unemployment for the fresh graduates. Or else, merchant navy would slowly lose its position as a prospective career option among students (The fact is it has already lost its lustre to a certain extent).
It is high time the government take a stand to help the freshly graduated cadets and engineers for getting placed in decent companies. Until this is done, both agents and shipping companies will not miss a single opportunity to earn profits from maritime professionals. Government needs to intervene and help these professionals with a decent break.
3. Lack of References = No Job Offer
Shocking but true, the trend of getting jobs using references is still a hot favourite method of getting a decent job. There have been several cases wherein average students have got jobs in top shipping companies because they have father or uncle working there as chief engineer or captain; whereas bright students are still jobless because either they don’t have a god father in the industry or lack hundred of dollars to pay as bribe.
Either ways, an unjust and unfair condition is being created which is eventually making the present situation grimmer. Though people might shout slogans against corruption or even get themselves enrolled in a debate against the same, the fact is, when it comes to personal level, the definition of immorality changes, drastically.
4. Shipping Companies Showing No Respect for Fresh Graduates
Let’s face the fact that a certain shipping company hires a fresh graduate with the sole intention and hope to retain him or her as a third officer or a fourth engineer once the necessary certifications are achieved. The companies don’t entertain newly graduates as respect to the degree or training they have. Don’t believe me? Visit a shipping company or a ship and see how the cadets and junior engineers are treated and you would get to know what I mean. We agree that they are fresh and naive, but they are future officers and captains. Give them their due respect.
The moral of the story is until the companies stop treating young professionals as “liabilities”, the loyalty will not have a place in employer-employee relationship, leading to reduction in retaining power of the company. Give respect, and get respect in return.
5. Unwillingness/Inability to Enter a Different Market
Unlike other fields, wherein graduates have options to enter other industries and domains, a seafarer is left with no other choice than to stick with the same field. Merchant navy is a specialized field, where only two types of people are found – one who loves money and one who loves the sea. So once a person shells out hundreds of dollars for his maritime training, he or she is least interested to explore other fields wherein the starting salary wouldn’t be even half of that offered in merchant navy. Moreover, the glamour attached with the field is also something that holds back maritime professionals to explore other domains. Try talking to a dozen of mariners; each one would talk about leaving the field, but I bet none would do so. Probably that’s why they say, “Once a mariner, always a mariner.” Moral of the story- there are several other opportunities as well. One needs to look beyond his or her mental block.
But this is just one side of the story. Most of the fresh maritime professionals won’t be able to land themselves with a decent job on land because the skilled they acquired are of no use on land. A marine engineer might be able to find a way, but a deck cadet will have a tough time making his way through the highly competitive market on land.
6. Improper/Inadequate Training
This might come a bit blunt on the fresh cadets and engineers. But lately there have been a huge lapse in the quality of cadets and engineers that maritime institutes are producing. Ask shipping companies, and they have a list of complains about fresh graduates. Probably that is just an excuse on their part; probably it is true, but the fact is maritime institutes today are more interested in quantity than quality. They believe a certificate is all that one needs to run a ship at sea, irrespective of the kind of training and skills a mariner has.
Though it’s true that experience is the best teacher, a fresh seafarer should have the basic skills to ensure his or her safety on ship. Most of the fresh seamen are still “Alice in wonderland” when on ship, increasing shipping companies belief that they really are nothing but “liabilities”. But the cadets and engineers are not the only ones to blame. It’s the slack policies of institutes that are to blame. And until these institutes tighten the loose ends, the shipping companies will not show their trust in the fresh graduates.
7. Maritime Institutes Flaunting Fake Promises
How often have you seen maritime institutes flaunting one liner such as 100% placement Guaranteed? Always, right? And how often have you seen the same institutes going back on their words when they are not able to provide placements? Same – always! Like every field, institutes in the marine industry have also learned the ropes of the game to allure more students to their courses. They know how to attract students by giving fake promises or showing big starting salary figures, without debriefing them about their future career or life at sea. Every year more and more students are falling prey to this traps and finding themselves stuck in a catch22 situation. End Result: Dissatisfaction, depression, and of course – the great unemployment!
Deck cadets and junior engineers are the lifeline of the maritime industry. With the higher rank holders showing less of interest in the sea life and moving towards land jobs, these fresh graduates would have to be at the helm of the industry one day. It is high time the authority took some drastic steps to give these professionals their due respect and place in the maritime industry.