Jobseeker’s market gives seafarers confidence

With a lack of candidates, ratings and officers can ask for more

By Matt Bridge

At the heart of the maritime industry are seafarers, the skilled and resilient professionals who dedicate their lives to ensuring the safe and efficient operation of vessels across the world’s oceans. Like many sectors, the seafarer recruitment market is not immune to the impact of change and waves of transformation.

In recent times, the seafarer recruitment landscape has witnessed a confluence of opportunities and challenges, each shaping the way businesses attract, retain, and nurture maritime talent. In tandem, we see the wants and needs of experienced seafarers and cadets transform as the market changes.

We see opportunities arise from technological advancements, decarbonisation and shifting sector needs, and new possibilities for career growth. Simultaneously, we face head-on challenges from demographic shifts and political unrest to evolving regulatory frameworks and the human element at the heart of seafaring.

As a business with a dedicated division for the recruitment of seafarers, we witness firsthand the demands from both candidates and clients, where the skill shortages lie as well as where the opportunities and challenges develop in the marketplace.

While the supply of seafarers became stagnated during the pandemic crisis period, we are now in an upsurge period in recruitment, where the demand for experienced seafarers is now outstripping supply. As we see growth and expansion in many subsectors, the amount of available talent to meet the need for these seafarers is now imbalanced.

Businesses have learned that they cannot be dependent on sourcing single nationalities and need to open their requirements to the global workforce. As more traditional seafaring candidate-rich countries have become more developed, we are starting to see a noticeable decrease in people moving into seafarer careers when other opportunities are increasing, especially IT and telecommunication jobs ashore.

Specialist skills sought

There has been an increase in diversity in the types of vessels operating as well as the specialist skills required. Particu- larly in the offshore sector and jack-up vessels, there has been a growth in the demand for seafarers with specialist skills and qualifications. The more niche vessels become, the more niche the skills required to operate them effi- ciently and safely – creating puddles of available talent.

As we head closer toward the industry’s goal of net zero emissions by 2050, the use of new fuels on vessels is also creating a need for more training and new skills for these fuel types, again creating only small puddles of talent.

The demand for talent is having an impact on seafarers too. There is a definite increase in confidence, created by the number of roles available in the market and the knowledge of an individual’s worth. Particularly for seafarers with a niche skill set, they know that they are difficult to find and in turn, we are seeing their demand for improved benefits being delivered by employers. Adding value to remuneration packages through benefits such as improved rotations (shorter and fairer), leisure facilities, Wi-Fi, and the ability to have family on board is becoming more commonplace. In our most recent cruise survey of seagoing professionals, we found high levels of demand for pensions, on-the- job training and career progression opportunities, as well as private medical care for the individual and their families, which we have seen in other sectors too.

The nature of a career as a seafarer can mean that many work from contract to contract, and from employer to employer. But there is a noticeable shift in the desire from employers to retain more of their people, rather than becoming part of a never-ending cycle of attraction and recruitment. Employers that can reduce crew turnover and focus their efforts on showing their loyalty to their seafarers may become more successful in driving loyalty behaviours from their people.

Application pointers

For those that are job-seeking, we see trends, pitfalls and opportunities in the application and recruitment process.

In the application stage, we see many experienced seafarers using CVs that are either not up to date with their most recent experience or are not set up to present their sea time and qualifications. Many busy hiring managers will not have the time or inclination to ask for more information. Your CV should provide a concise and structured summary of your education, work experience, skills, achievements, and qualifications. Hiring managers and recruitment consultants will use it to assess your suitability for a particular position based on the hiring requirements. Getting your CV right and taking the time to update it with your experience is integral to being successful at the application stage.

In the early stages of the recruitment process, we also encounter some seafarers who either do not provide their qualification certificates or are unable to when requested. A theme we see time and again is that seafarers forget when they need to update their certificates. It is commonplace to rely on their employer to do this but once you have left an employer, the onus is back on you to remember to renew them.

We have seen a growing trend for hiring managers to check out potential employees on social media. Your social media profile may be just as important as your CV if you are looking for a new job or changing careers. First impressions count and you should treat your social media profiles as a ‘shop window’. When someone lands on your profile this is when first impressions are made, so you need to think about what you want them to see.

Be prepared

In recruitment processes we have seen a surge in employers implementing crew evaluations and testing is increasing to evaluate your background, strengths and weaknesses. What we have no- ticed is that without practice for these evaluations, experienced seafarers are not always hitting the mark in terms of what employers are looking for in skill sets. To distinguish yourself from others requires practice, reading the evaluation questions carefully, and understanding what the employer is asking you to demonstrate.

On-demand recorded interview questions are now the norm in the early stages of the recruitment process. Again, seafarers must practice for these interviews, utilising sample interview questions from the internet or example interview questions from their recruitment consultant. Simply practising in front of a camera, making sure that you can be seen and heard, and just getting used to speaking without any interaction from another person is going to aid you in presenting your best self to a potential employer.

As a global industry, interviews can take place in many time zones. Something to always double-check with a hiring manager or recruitment consultant is what the time zone will be for the interview. It is an easy mistake to make but one that a quick clarification question will avoid.

It is likely that as the demand for seafarers continues to rise, employers will need to come up with innovative ways of not only attracting people but creating loyalty too. Whether this will come from a focus on competitive remuneration packages, or the opportunity to train and build careers, seafarer employers will need to distinguish themselves in the marketplace. Becoming an employer of choice will be imperative with attributes that are hard to imitate to sustain success in recruitment into the future. Matt Bridge is associate director of crew recruitment at Faststream Recruitment, Maritime Jobs – Shipping Jobs – Energy Jobs · Faststream Recruitment.