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Decarbonizing shipping requires hundreds of thousands of new green jobs

16 February 2023

The path towards a low-emission global economy will completely change the labor market in many sectors. The Maritime Industry, whose transformation requires a rapid increase in skills and change among the world's seafarers is no exception. The transformation requires major national efforts, writes the World Economic Forum in a new article.

The green transition will create millions of new "green jobs" across sectors worldwide. The renewable energy industry alone is projected to generate 38.2 million jobs by 2030, writes the World Economic Forum in the article Why skills is vital for energy transition, which was published last week.

But it is not only new jobs that are created - The effects of the green transition on employment are also requiring workforces across multiple sectors to reskill and upskill. A seafarer currently trained in marine oil will require additional training as the industry transitions to future alternative fuel technologies, such as hydrogen, ammonia and batteries.

In addition, the rapid development of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and digitization, requires completely new skills. New smart ship technologies reflect a general trend towards a "highly trained" seafarer who is far from the traditional image of a rough-and-tumble sailor.

So how quickly must the skills increase take place? According to the World Economic Forum, 800,000 seafarers will need to retrain to handle alternative fuels by the mid-2030s. At least if we are to meet the goal of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius or less by 2050.

The availability of qualified labor and the right training will be decisive for shipping's green transformation. However, in general, coherence between skills and environmental policies remains weak and fragmented in many countries. According to the World Economic Forum this poor cross-governmental coordination is hampering the effectiveness of governments being able to successfully plan their green skills formation, let alone deliver on them.

But there is hope. Fortunately, the global maritime training standard – the STCW Convention – is facing a major update and its content will be discussed in one of the IMO's sub-committees this week. This means a real opportunity for shipping to demonstrate an international consensus on the question of what competence is required to reach set environmental goals.

However, if a transition is to be possible, much work needs to be done at the national level and the World Economic Forum calls on governments worldwide to "ensure better coordination between their own departments, ministries, agencies and authorities that are responsible for the policy levers that need to be engaged to prepare populations and infrastructure for shipping’s low-carbon future.

Here, the cooperation between industry, trade unions and educational institutions will be decisive. In a triple helix, they must effectively monitor and forecast skills to match supply and demand. As the majority of the nearly 2 million global maritime workforce comes from the Global South, crew-supply countries may need special support during the transition.

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