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More people must want to work at sea

26 May 2023

According to a new report from Lighthouse, 200 students a year need to be enrolled in the Deck officer program to cover the future need for naval officers. The interest in working at sea must therefore increase significantly.

It has long been known that Swedish shipping has problems with new recruitment. Transport Analyses stated in 2020 that large groups will soon be retired and that regrowth is weak, mainly among ship's officers. The following year, this was also confirmed in the study "Future needs for maritime skills", which was drawn up by consultant Gunnar Eriksson on behalf of Chalmers University of Technology and Linnaeus University.

“Eriksson stated that there was a great need for maritime expertise, but did not quantify exactly how great the need is. In step two of the project, we have now found out”, says Fredrik Olindersson, head of department at Maritime Studies at Chalmers and one of the authors behind the report.

The report, which is based on an extensive data collection (survey and interviews with players in the industry as well as a review of statistics from the maritime training courses and the Swedish Transport Agency's data regarding authorizations and time at sea) concludes that 200 registered students are needed in the sea captain program and the same number in the marine engineering program each year to cover the needs of the future.

“Today there are a total of 120 places on the sea captain program and 80 on the marine engineering program if the places at Chalmers University of Technology and Linnaeus University are added. But we don't really fill those places”, says Fredrik Olindersson.
He continues:

“There are, of course, limitations on how many people we can take into the schools. But before we get that problem, we need to fill the seats.

How this is to be done is the big challenge. For several years, the industry has worked to address the recruitment concern. Fredrik Olindersson mentions the Maritime Convoy (where the public in cities around the Swedish coast has been invited to the icebreaker Atle in several rounds), that study and vocational guidance counselors have been invited to the Donsö Shipping Meet and that attempts have been made to market shipping at various trade fairs.

“Unfortunately, we have not seen any direct effects from it.”

Therefore, the problem needs to be worked on at all levels. For example, the throughput of the courses could be increased. Today, approximately 60 percent of those who begin their education graduate and approximately half of those then stay in a profession at sea.

“If instead 70 percent graduate and 70 percent stay at sea and obtain the highest qualification, then 200 beginners are not needed every year”, says Fredrik Olindersson.

It has long been a common notion within Swedish shipping that the average naval commander stays at sea for seven years. It is questionable whether this is true as the survey states that the average time of valid qualification for naval officers is 18.4 years.

- In the last 25 years, 2,800 people have graduated. Many of them do not work at sea today, and there should be over a thousand people of working age with a renewable license. Can they be enticed to get an extension and go to sea again? This is something that the shipping companies have to think about while we at the schools focus on how to attract more students and then get them to graduate.

The pre-study Framtida behov av sjöbefäl has been written by Mikael Hägg (RISE), Johan Hartler (Chalmers), Fredrik Olindersson (Chalmers), Björn Pundars (Linnéuniversitetet) and Johan Eliasson Ljungklint (Chalmers).

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