The Urgent Need of Proper Vocational Guidance for Maritime Careers

Corporate-style management of maritime institutions and e-governance of flag state offices are not alien concepts. With new trends emerging in Maritime training, a lot needs to be done with the youngsters in India, at the induction level itself, to make them aware, about the true requirements of maritime careers and life aboard merchant navy vessels. A proper vocational guidance would help students to confirm, whether they have the right aptitude and attitude for a particular maritime job, so as to have successful shipping careers.

There is a common complaint from shipping companies, that the new maritime entrants are just not the right material for shipping. This is also borne out by the high attrition rate – the number of fresh entrants getting disillusioned about maritime careers, and eventually quitting shipping. The reason we are not able to retain people in the shipping industry is not the fault of the job itself, but more in the faulty method and manner of selection of students for various maritime careers. A properly planned vocational guidance can help a lot to resolve this issue.

Prospective students, who seek to make their careers in the Merchant Navy, must have the necessary skill sets, in order to survive in the market place, over the long term. Today, the Maritime industry is going through a sea change, just as the rest of the industries worldwide. There is a new economic order, defined by new technology and globalization.  Properly managed vocational guidance centers  at least in the Metro cities, are vital, to face this challenge.


Joining the merchant navy is not a question of coining attention-catching slogans, such as ‘Join the Merchant Navy and see the World’ or ‘Join Merchant and become a Millionaire”. These are, in fact, quite misleading. They give the impression, that a person joining is merely interested in travelling worldwide like a tourist, instead of doing a technical and highly qualified job or following a respectable maritime career. Such advertisements project entirely the wrong picture and attract the wrong set of people. Young students must know about the right things about the Merchant Navy before joining the field.

What is needed is a proper set-up to pick the right people from the sea of prospective candidates. Students seeking maritime careers must be capable of finding out whether they have the required aptitude or not. We need a center manned by competent staff, which will not only guide new entrants with vocational guidance, but will also assess their skills, capabilities and actual suitability, for the various maritime careers on board ship.

Merely having people, knowing all the rules and regulations and the details of the maritime training courses offered, to convey the information to the students, whenever needed, is not at all the idea. This type, the so-called “counselling centers”, already exists.

Existing Counselling centers have proved to be absolutely ineffective, since these places don’t have the means to monitor and assess students, for aptitude as well as attitude, during practical work required for maritime careers.

Just passing IIT style Entrance examinations, where students have to answer several questions in certain time frame, is the most useless and unsuitable sort of system, especially for a practical profession like the Merchant Navy. Such method is only suitable for creating bureaucrats, who have no place among the highly qualified staff, required on modern merchant vessels.

Lately, there has also been a flood of ‘DG approved’ private maritime training institutions, created in the wake of the so-called liberalization  many of which are not even efficiently monitored, let alone properly controlled. Besides being labelled as ‘money-making’ institutions, they have succeeded in giving a bad name to the well-run maritime institutes, in particular, and the entire shipping industry, in general.

A focused and committed body, staffed by dedicated mariners, drawn from the shipping industry itself, could do a much better job at vocational guidance and monitoring maritime institutes, than the present overlapping of various Government agencies, which have proved inadequate in the task of watching over these private institutes. Possibly due to shortage of manpower and inadequate facilities, there is precious little of organised monitoring, leading to an obvious end result – a complete mess of the whole issue. Why this was not thought of, right in the beginning, is difficult to say. Probably, there may have been a fear, that corporatism of this would lead to a conflict of interests.

Merchant Navy
Misleading Ads to attract students should be banned

We must understand one thing that even any senior mariner, heading this office, is not going to be able to solve all the problems at once, like waving a magic wand. This would simply be a more focused attempt, to tackle the problem in a far more logical fashion, than what is presently being done, which is obviously not good enough.

A proper plan to impart vocational guidance to new students seeking maritime careers is definitely an urgent need of the shipping industry.

Note: This viewpoint could be considered as a fresh effort, to properly guide new entrants, seeking to make their maritime careers, in the Merchant Navy. This will also ensure that our existing Maritime institutes could get a more suitable quality of personnel to train


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