The call of the sea
Why shouldn't the bustling maritime industry of today be an ideal choice for people eager to carve out a lifetime career?
With its fast-paced growth and increasing embracement of technology and innovation, coupled with the varied opportunities available to learn and develop, new talent should be queuing at its gates.
Instead the industry has been facing a global skills shortage for some years now. Some may point the finger of blame at the sector's poor public image as a slow-moving, bureaucracy-filled business that has few perks and involves being stuck away at sea for long periods of time away from family.
Others blame a sustained long-term under-investment in recruitment and training coupled with the increase of new ships to support the growth of the industry.
Arabianbusiness.com's own Business Confidence Survey, published last month, showed that the skilled labour shortage was the single biggest obstacle to companies in the region achieving their growth targets.
The survey recorded opinions of over 500 business people from across the GCC over a four-week period to assess what respondents expected from overall economic conditions in six months time. Nearly one out of every five respondents (19.7%) cited a lack of access to skilled labour as an obstacle to future growth plans.
For the region's maritime sector, this is even more of a concern. According to the BIMCO/ISF Manpower 2005 Update on global seafarer supply, based on the national statistics from most principal labour supply and other maritime countries, the 2.1% deficit in sea-faring officers in 2005 looks likely to increase to a worrying 5.9% by 2015.
Furthermore, it is almost inevitable that fewer skilled workers will lead to more accidents linked to human error. According to insurance broker Aon, this could lead to increasing claims and higher premiums in the long term.
So where is the region's industry going wrong? To overcome the shortage of skilled workers, it seems a multi-pronged approach is necessary. Having world-class training and educational opportunities on offer to up-skill workers is essential.
Furthermore, human resources need to buckle up, both in terms of adopting a fresh recruitment strategy to seduce young talent into the sector and to ensure companies keep a tight hold of their existing skilled employees.
Relying on recruiting from overseas is not a sustainable answer. Instead, a joint effort between governments, educational establishments and the maritime industry is needed to focus on attracting the local populations to their doors.