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BCS: more focus needed on seafarer recruitment and ensuring crew quality

(Posted on 10/01/24)

Shipping companies and training centres should focus on bringing in the right people to the industry to ensure a wider pool of maritime professionals are remaining in their careers at sea, says Peter Smit, CEO of BCS Group – Boers Crew Services.

The Netherlands-based company regularly sees crew changes being cancelled due to long delays for visa applications and crew shortages, and believes the industry should focus on attracting the right people to the job and ensuring there is enough progression to keep employees interested in the job.

Mr Smit said: “It is important we are attracting the right people to work out at sea and remain in the seafaring profession. Training centres and colleges, particularly in the Philippines, seem to have no trouble attracting people to the profession, but the issue lies with keeping them out at sea. Why are the majority of crews who go through the training not ending up onboard? That’s what we need to be asking.

“I think it’s only 10 or 15% who actually end up at sea, so a lot of money, time and effort is being wasted. The industry needs to work together to understand why there are not enough people staying in their jobs as maritime professionals onboard.”

Boers Crew Services offers an end-to-end solution when transporting shipping crew members to and from ports in The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, dealing with everything from entry visas to medical services, hotel bookings and transport services.

Applying for a Schengen visa has become more and more complex, Mr Smit explained. With strict immigration requirements, applications are taking longer and requiring more identification checks to be completed before approval, often resulting in long delays. Boers has recently launched an initiative to offer shipping companies Preventative Medical Examinations for crews, allowing employees to carry out blood tests, both before they join the ship and while they are out at sea.

Mr Smit added: “There are many factors to keeping crews out at sea, from health and wellbeing, entertainment onboard, good wages and good internet connectivity. There are not enough maritime professionals to fill all the positions and we must ask ourselves why there is always a shortage? I think it’s important the industry focusses on making sure the right people are going onto the vessels. Perhaps there needs to be more steps taken before a new employee goes onboard to ensure they are right for the job.

“It is also important that seafarers are paid fairly and on time. Bearing in mind how much a seafarer sacrifices to work away at sea, the wages need to reflect that. Just like any job, there needs to be progression opportunities to keep crew members challenged, happy and satisfied in their jobs. It’s important employees are the right fit for the job and seafaring jobs are kept interesting and challenging enough to retain the workforce onboard.”

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