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Maritime Blogs

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How the Crisis Came to Maritime Job Market in India for New Entrants

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Unemployment is rising to unprecedented high levels. There are several good policies governments can deploy to tackle it, but there are risks to avoid too. The global economy is in the midst of the worst financial and economic crisis of the past 50 years, with severe consequences for workers and their families.

Since the second half of 2008, major declines in output have occurred in countries everywhere, leading to sharp falls in employment and steep hikes in unemployment. From a 25-year low at 5.6% in 2007, the OECD unemployment rate rose to a postwar high of 8.5% in July 2009, corresponding to an increase of over 15 million in the ranks of the unemployed. In short, OECD countries are facing a jobs crisis. 

When some industries lose workers, they win the consolation prize of empty political promises to turn back time. The loss of these jobs has been devastating to many cities and towns. But department stores have lost 18 times more workers than coal mining since 2001. 

There are several possible explanations. 

  

What happened?

The economy has dramatically shifted in recent years, as labor-saving technology has eliminated the need for millions of workers. Simply, many large companies don’t need as many workers as they used to. Technological advancement has meant less employment for the average Indian. 

 

 

A few exceptions

 If you’ve searched for a job, you’ll probably notice that there are lots of open positions available in growing fields such as tech and healthcare. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people don’t have the specialized training that is required to work in these fields. 

 

What's Next

The next wave of job losses is expected to happen in services: Experts expect the three key services sectors — software services, telecom and BFSI (banking and financial services) — to shed nearly 1.5 million white collar jobs in the 12-18 months. This trend has already begun: in the period July-September last year, the information technology/BPO sector lost 16,000 jobs, according to the Quarterly Employment Survey.

 

 

Words of Principal Officer of MMD Kochi

The photograph of the cadets of TS Chanakya, on hunger strike for a job, is a painful scene for anyone who is connected with the maritime sector and places several questions before all of us. How, the country's premier maritime institute, rated at par with IITs till a few years back reached this shameful state of affairs? Where are we going wrong?

I venture to comment on these questions, albeit with a caveat, that my views expressed here are purely personal and, need not necessarily represent the official position of the organization to which I belong to. Because, I believe this is a classic example, how the progressive government policy initiatives can be hijacked and misused by a few. And, when I refer to recruiting agents or private maritime institutes in this article, I must also place on record my highest respect and regards to our reputed ship management companies who took Indian seafarers to the world shipping map and some of our committed private institutes, who brought world class maritime training concepts to India.

Those who are 40plus, let's go 10-15 yrs down our memory line. Those were the days of seminars after seminars and presentations after presentations, projecting the demand for Indian seafarers ten times in few years. Those were the days of reports after reports from world renowned consultancy groups predicting the growth of Indian shipping to several folds in a decade time. Maritime policy makers vouched in every forum that the world share of Indian seafarers will be reaching 11-12% from the then existing 7% in few years.

Every education industrialist aspired for maritime training institutes and thus maritime training became one of the most lucrative businesses in the education sector, perhaps next to medical education. Maritime training evolved as one of the most expensive amongst all technical courses, with hardly any room for meritorious students who could not pool up several lakhs as fees.

Several shipping companies identified maritime training as a lucrative ancillary industry complementing their core business interests. Revolving restaurants and air-conditioned basketball courts became trademarks of some of our institutes. Our esteemed shipping guests from foreign countries had another sightseeing option- some of our five-star 'resort institutes' in hill stations!!

But, see the situation today- students who spent millions, probably through loans, dreaming lucrative seafaring job are on hunger strike to get a ship for training and a company for employment. Recruiting portfolio became the only growing and arguably the most corrupt sector in shipping. Many notorious 'commission agents' and 'dalals' who used to roam around in seafarer's Club rechristening themselves as 'RPSL Companies'', opened posh offices and openly bargained with desperate junior officers for placements. Even reputed ship management companies went through credibility crisis.

Our maritime prophets who predicted millions of jobs for Indian seafarers went hiding. Our esteemed Consultants who prophesied a startling future for Indian shipping, are now busy in making a more colorful graphical illustration for their next clientele. Our maritime managements gurus are now teaching stress relieving techniques for revalidation courses. Maritime Training Institutes are doing researches on STCW convention to approach Administration with a proposal to start a new short term STCW course.

So, Where did we go wrong?

Friends, most of us failed to remember that shipping is commercial industry, that too cyclical in nature and ships are run for profit and not for charity. It is not the five-star facilities, but, the quality of trainees who come out of these institutes which is going to decide the destiny of India as a seafaring nation. And it is a simple fact that no technology can produce cashew-candy from peanuts. The quality of product depends on the quality of raw material used and no institute can produce world class seafarers if they compromise on the quality of intake for money. And no ship owner will spend a penny on him if he is not worth it!!!

But the real tragedy was that these youngsters who were born and brought up in corruption- first in training and then in placement- carried this culture to the ships. The biggest casualty was the image of Indians as the most disciplined, resilient and technically profound officers onboard. To worsen the situation, came the communication revolution; seafarers withdrew to their laptops & mobiles, leaving the common platforms of smoke rooms and saloons. And the obvious casualty was the essential 'team efforts' on board, which was the trademark of ''All Indians- manned ships''!!
Friends, if the foreign shipping companies migrated in large scale to India in the late 80s, making it as their most favored recruiting hub, it is simply because they wanted Indian seafarers for their competency, and not because of any patriotic relationship with India. Neither did this phenomenon owe to any policy initiatives from the government nor to any marketing strategies from the scores of associations which dictate our policy initiatives of today.

Indian seafarers achieved this envious status because of their professionalism and hard work and as long as they are able to maintain this, they will continue to have a stable space in the international shipping scenario, no matter, what our self-styled ‘maritime prophets’ predict and propagate. On the converse, if our seafarers fail to maintain their standard, both technically and attitudinally, the future of Indian seafaring community is bleak, because we can never compete with China or Burma in terms of cost, but only through our sheer competence and hard work. We, the generation who joined Sea in the late eighties or early nineties were taught that Indian seafarers when took over from Europeans reduced the ship's operational cost, other than salary, by around 30-40%, because, every O-ring they saved or every copper gasket they reused were saving the ship manager in dollars.

Gentlemen, I am afraid this is only the beginning of another unfolding saga, which is going to be more tragic. Because, those who systematically nurtured the mushrooming and proliferation of maritime training institutes in the country, without the backing of any realistic assessment regarding the demand and supply balance, have tasted blood from the rampant corruption in the recruitment of junior level officers. Now they dream of a much more lucrative picture of the Masters and Chief Engineers on hunger strike to get a placement on a ship and thus thrive on the commission racket, it could throw open to them. The recent organized campaign of 'heavy shortage' of senior officers and branding our examiners and examination system as the biggest obstacle in creating a flooded market of certified officers, find its root cause to this greed of some from our own maritime fraternity.

Friends, how close to reality is the recent hue and cry from a section projecting ''heavy shortage'' of senior officers? If at all it is true, dilute the quality of examination and make available the certificates through "Xerox centres" in front of GPO, like many foreign CoCs, is the solution to it? What is the real motive behind the demand for declaring all White-list country CoCs, from Panama to Belize as equivalent to Indian CoC? Is the campaign for permitting foreign nationals on Indian ships justified, when our own junior officers run from companies to companies for a placement?

We will discuss them next time, but till then, you can agree or disagree with me - but please help in creating a healthy discussion on these issues......

 

What Can Be Done? 

Share your views on this in the comment section and let us know, what you think could be done for the improvement. 

 

 

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