Fluency in English and professional skills based on the Convention on Training, Certification and Watchkeeping Standards (STCW) are no longer sufficient to guarantee employment at sea, especially with the advent of automated vessels which threaten to eliminate human workers on board ships.
This was confirmed by those responsible for crew training and training in maritime and maritime transport at the Seafarers Convention (SEACON) 2019, a maritime conference, job fair and trade exhibition that brings together all maritime players, industry leaders and seafarers.
Former Maritime Industry Authority Administrator () C / E Marcial Amaro highlighted how obsolete modes of education and training in the maritime sector have made Filipino seafarers less competitive in the era of the Fourth industrial revolution (4IR), a period characterized by automation and artificial intelligence.
âShipping now has automated ships, but our education is still at the same level as before – the same textbooks and books that came out in the 1970s with mechanisms that were long gone. Does this make Filipino sailors competitive with the rest of the world? Competence is not enough, âAmaro said.
With the imminent threats of automation to job security on board ships, Gerardo Borromeo, general manager (CEO) of the Philippine Transmarine Carriers (PTC), suggested that sailors should focus on a “job in navigation. Instead of just ‘work on a ship’.
“(The staffing industry) will need to reposition jobs based on the skills and individual abilities of a sailor,” he said, indicating that automation does not necessarily move the workforce from there industry, but simply shifts the professional chain to technology-backed land-based work. This responds to recruitment needs that have become more complex; recruiting officers will need to be able to understand and assess the skills that seafarers possess to meet the ever-changing demands of the industry.
âWe need to adapt and move forward instead of feeling threatened by technology and innovation,â he added.
This was supported by Michael Esplago, Regional Director of TERP, a technology provider of personalized education and training materials that promotes digital learning in various industries. He drew attention to people’s instinctive distress in the face of technological innovations, an approach that denies adaptability in an industry that is changing at an unprecedented rate.
âTechnology in the maritime industry must always be a matter of evolution, it must not be a threat to human capital. We should be creating technology that helps humans adapt and helps our students learn better. Our industry should bring 4I closer to people, humanize innovation and leverage it, âhe said.
âTechnology shouldn’t be a threat because it makes things easier,â said Karen Avelino, president of the Philippine Association of Maritime Training Centers, Inc. (PAMTCI). âIt doesn’t completely remove people from ship operations and we can easily adapt; we just have to improve our system to help that, âshe said with reference to maritime education which is slowly adjusting to the demands of the industry.
âOur academics and training are now a mix of traditional and technological learning; it now includes many topics to prepare our sailors for the future. We should however include robotics and artificial intelligence in our education system, âshe explained.
Avelino further pointed out that while several countries are now in close competition to provide manpower in international shipping, Filipinos are still preferred and have not “really lowered” the list.
âWe need to maintain our advantage by working together in this time of innovation,â she said.
âWe need to do what we fear most: change. From there, we must continue to move forward and prepare for the future, âsays Esplago.
The maritime conference also brought together some of the biggest names in maritime education and training, such as Vice Admiral Eduardo Ma. Santos, President of the Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific (MAAP), Captain Joel Abutal, superintendent of the Philippine Merchant Marine Academy (PMMA), Glenn Mark Blasquez, president of the Southern Institute of Maritime Studies (SIMS). Also present was Vice Admiral Narciso Vingzon Jr., OIC Administrator of the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina).