Like the majority of industries, the maritime sector isn’t immune to the ever increasing impact that technology is having on the workplace. From offices to warehouses and from rail, road and sky to the oceans, we are living and working in an age that requires us to be more switched on, clued up and tech savvy than ever before.

This issue was addressed by the IMO’s Secretary-General, Kitack Lim, on January 15th this year while speaking at the IMO Headquarters. The launch of a new report “Transport 2040: Automation, Technology and Employment – the Future of Work” put the issue of whether seafarers should be upskilling to improve their knowledge of technology firmly in the spotlight.

Secretary-General Lim asks the questions that count;

Secretary-General Lim posed a number of questions that concern anyone who owns or manages a vessel: “How will the seafarer of the future manage the challenges related to an increasing level of technology and automation in maritime transport? How will the new technologies impact on the nature of jobs in the industry? What standards will seafarers be required to meet with respect to education, training and certification to qualify them for the jobs of the future?”

Should seafarers develop their tech skills?

But is the onus on the seafarer to develop their skills or should tech-based training for crews be implemented as standard as the maritime industry encompasses ever increasing levels of digitization and automation? One concern raised during the meeting at the IMO headquarters was the need for equilibrium when it comes to embracing the benefits brought about by new technologies and the need to still address issues of ship and crew safety and security.

In conclusion, the IMO’s report ended by stating that the implementation of automation in, not just the maritime industry, but in global transportation as a whole, would be likely to be “evolutionary, rather than revolutionary.” It also posed that regardless of these “high levels of automation”, qualified seafarers who possess the right skills would still be one of the sector’s most valuable assets - at least for the foreseeable future.

Adding new skills will set seafarers apart

Therefore if the IMO’s report is to be read as an indicator of the way things are heading within the maritime sector, it could be in a seafarer’s best interests to ensure they’re ready and qualified to meet challenges related to technology within their workplace. Whether that comes down to learning how to code or simply brushing up on dormant IT skills, upskilling can only be a good thing.

Automation and technology are here to stay, regardless of the sector, however within the shipping industry it is thought that changes will happen more slowly than in other industries. This will also vary by country and even region, and it’s likely that crew members and shore staff alike will be affected differently depending on their personal skill sets.

Are you a seafarer or cadet looking for a role that offers a greater degree of technical know-how? Maybe you’re a ship manager or owner who wants to add some tech savvy members to your crew? Get in touch with Martide today and let us help you fulfill your ambitions or positions.