Regional shipowners call for new blood
Panel members at a shipping conference in Abu Dhabi today called for a greater effort on the part of the industry to invest in sponsorship, scholarships and academies to attract a new generation of students to the sector.
Representatives from Oman, Saudi Arabia and Iran, who were gathered at the Maritime Outlook Middle East conference in Abu Dhabi today, all agreed that investment in colleges and funding lectures would benefit shipowners in the long term.
"We are trying to develop the appropriate people, but as yet we have not established real shipping academies," said Humoud Abdulaziz Al Ajlan, CEO of the National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia (NSCSA)
"At the moment, we really only have a college attached to the King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah. It's been a modest effort and we need more input to face the future challenges the industry will throw at us, particularly in terms of winning over graduates when more financially profitable careers in banking and real estate are available," Al Ajlan added.
Port of Salalah deputy CEO Ahmed Akaak added that while his facility was regarded as the training hub for the region, with around 1700 local nationals employed at the port, a reliance on expatriate assistance to run the terminal was unsustainable in the long term.
One bright spot was provided by National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) chairman Mohammed Souri, who indicated that his company had assisted the Ministry of Education with setting up seven nautical colleges in his country.
"Around 90% of seafarers on our fleets are Iranian, and we are planning to train these sailors so that they will actually become available for the international shipping market in the near future. And with new colleges in India, the Philippines, Bangladesh and elsewhere, we hope that this shortage will soon be overcome," Souri remarked.