Shipping needs to boost skill sets, improve diversity and inclusion and support staff welfare, UK minister for maritime Nusrat Ghani told a conference in London today.

“Your employees are your most important aspect even with the coming technological changes,” Ghani said.

She praised the UK maritime sector as “a great industry” with “great people”.

“Without the dedication, skills and talent of the UK’s maritime workforce the country would be “brought to a standstill,” she told at the Maritime HR Conference.

The minister revealed that over the summer the government would publish a People Route Map – which would outline how it plans to turn its vision laid out in Maritime 2050 into a reality.

Ghani said that people was one of themes of the UK’s Maritime 2050 strategy, which she described as charting an ambitious course for the sector.

She said over the summer the government would publish a People Route Map – which would outline how it plans to turn its vision laid out in Maritime 2050 into a reality.

But Ghani said that maritime has a duty to constantly improve the way in which it attracts, retains and trains its staff and not all parts of the sector has lived up to their responsibilities on these fronts.

The minister highlighted that the industry has already seen a 4% decline in officer cadets in last year and a global shortage of 150,000 officers by 2025.

Critical changes

In future roles will become multidisciplinary and future UK seafarers will likely need to be equipped with transferable IT skills that will allow them to easily transition between sea and land-based roles, she said.

Ghani said it is “crucial” that the industry changes the current lack of diversity and inclusion in the industry.

She detailed that 96 out of every 100 certified officers on UK registered vessels are male.

“It is a shocking disparity and something that it is vital we solve for the good of the maritime sector as a whole," the minister added.

“No industry is at its best when it only recruits from a tiny array of talent on offer,” she said.

Ghani also highlighted that women in maritime are often paid less than their male counterparts with 78% of companies reporting that men are typically paid more.

The minister said maritime also needs to do a better job of supporting its employees in their jobs.

She said the industry needs to adapt a new world of work. Three quarters of seafarers report that they receive no help transitioning back to shore-based work.

Ghani said “people” is one of seven themes in the government’s Maritime 2050 initiative.

But she said government and industry need to work in partnership and urged companies to look at what more they can do to improve these areas.

“There never has been a more important time for maritime than now,” she said.

“I hope this is a period in our maritime history and our future that we can roll up sleeves up our sleeves together and get on with the job."