Chief Pilot and MMF Board Member Capt Jesmond Mifsud gave a broad overview of the massive skills requirements within the Maritime Industry during the MMF-WestMed Blue Skills conference which was organised on the occasion of European Maritime Day.

He said that it was surprising to him and many others how hard it was to fill vacancies across all levels and all sectors of the Industry particularly in the higher-paid categories of employment and within the glamourous sectors of super yachts and cruise liners.

“A cruise ship is like a massive hotel property the size of a Maltese village accommodating 6,000 passengers and 3,000 crew. Besides thousands of cabins, on board amenities include restaurants, casinos, cinemas, beauty parlours, spas, hair salons, gyms, sports facilities, clinics, shops, swimming-pools…. The list is endless so one can only imagine the variety of skill typologies required on a cruise ship – not to mention the engineering and navigational skills that are also required on merchant ships” he explained. “Superyachts are a similar story but on a smaller scale and on a completely different level in terms of luxury and service expectation”.

Capt Mifsud questioned, therefore, why people were content to pursue such jobs as hair-dressing, nail-technicians, casino croupiers, waiters and bartenders on land, when they could do the same work at sea earning a salary multiple times higher?

He opined that possible reasons for this were the severe lack of awareness of the opportunities on offer and the disconnect between stakeholders which deprived would-be entrants of a straight-forward, logical, coherent and attainable path within the framework of our education system.

He said that for every sea-faring occupation, the maritime industry generated several land-based positions. He cited a multitude of examples including port operations, TM personnel, all ship repair positions, naval architects, marine underwriters, insurers, lawyers, ship, hydrographic and fuel surveyors, crewing agencies, management services, ship chandlers, shipping agents, logistic officers, waste and cleansing management, fish farm operators, water sports and sailing clubs, dredging operators, maritime education centres amongst several others.

In all such cases, the disadvantage of being out at sea, away from the home and family, therefore should not be a factor for people opting away from land-based careers in the Industry.

Capt Mifsud concluded by appealing to all stakeholders represented at the conference to forge a national concerted effort aimed at solving the current market frictions that are leading to the current skills gap situation.

“A clear direction towards the future will encourage young people to follow that path, safe in the knowledge that stable and rewarding opportunities await them after their student days” concluded Capt Mifsud.

Karin Grech
Author: Karin Grech