Mr Joseph Bugeja, Chairman & CEO of Transport Malta addressed the MMF-WestMED conference held on 12 May.

Outlining, the current state of play, he said that the industry is facing a challenge from the shortage of persons wishing to take up a maritime career.  He attributed this to a perception that maritime careers typically entail tougher challenges as compared to others that “pay more with a lesser sacrifice”. “Young people today are less interested in taking up a career in the shipping industry”, he said, “with the employment of foreign personnel now becoming the norm.”

Mr Bugeja said that the effects of such shortages are partly offset by higher degrees of automation but the damage sustained from the skills gap remains significant.  “It is up to us, as drivers of the industry to reach out to students and project maritime careers” he said.

The TM Chairman recognised the onset of unmanned ships but opined that it is most unlikely that captains and ship engineers will become obsolete soon”.  He emphasised rather, that while crews may be expected to shrink in size, they will need to adapt and improve in terms of their competences.”

The TM Chairman said that the country aspired towards a high-quality shipping sector that can compete around the world. He said that capacity building is key for the country to ensure that in future the maritime industry is supported by well trained and qualified professionals, including seafarers, engineers, maritime lawyers and research analysts. “We need to explore new ways of carrying our training and education to ensure that future crews can meet the sector’s needs. With increasing use of technology and digitalization in the shipping industry, there is need for adequate training on the use of new technologies. Otherwise, the use of increased technologies would not be able to bridge the manpower gap or achieve greater efficiency within the industry.”

“We must also create more visibility and enhance the image of shipping and careers at sea whilst improving awareness of job opportunities. This would not only open new employment opportunities but also provide added value to the industry.”

Mr Bugeja also called for a sustained flow of private-sector led investment towards the development of Blue Skills and commended the initiative of Maritime MT in setting up its state-of-the-art training facility dedicated to the development of seafaring and shore based personnel.

The Chairman concluded that “Transport Malta shall continue to strive to make our maritime and economic environment even more conducive to attract more institutions to operate from Malta. Our guiding principle remains that of offering the most competitive and effective legal framework in the world. This will be achieved only through healthy cooperation with the private industry together with a reliable and constant flow of human capital to strengthen Malta’s position in the blue economy and develop it into a leading maritime centre of excellence”.

Karin Grech
Author: Karin Grech