Put people first, shipping told

Young maritime leaders call for improved human sustainability across the industry

By Siyuan Qin and Susanne Justesen

Ensuring human sustainability as well as dignity and respect for every human being across the maritime supply chain is gaining traction as an important priority across the maritime industry, especially when it comes to seafarers. Increasing pressure to do better on human sustainability comes from important industry stakeholders such as governments, investors, and customers but also from maritime industry leaders themselves. This became very clear at this year’s Global Maritime Forum Annual Summit in New York, where one of the key topics discussed was human sustainability.

The loudest call for change seems to be coming from the youngest members of the industry, the young maritime professionals below the age of 30. To get a sense of the priorities of Gen Z and Gen Y talent, the Global Maritime Forum recently hosted a seminar with 40 young maritime professionals from all around the world participating. When asked what it would take for the maritime industry to be truly attractive to them and their peers, they called for improvements in diversity, inclusion, flexibility, purpose and values, and working conditions, as well as better career opportunities.

Diversity is important to young maritime professionals who want to work in an industry where diversity is a natural part of daily life, both at sea and ashore. They ask for greater efforts to ensure more diversity across organisations, ranging from leadership roles to entry-level positions. They encouraged industry leaders to work with and invest in schools and maritime educational institutions to attract greater diversity among younger generations – at all levels.

Clearer purpose and values across the maritime industry were also important priorities. Young maritime professionals want to be part of an industry driven by values and purpose, and less driven by profit optimisation, because many young professionals are choosing purpose and values over pay.

Flexible working

More flexibility should also be prioritised, both in terms of general career paths and actual job design. The industry needs to become better at accommodating people from different backgrounds and at various life phases with different demands, and move away from one-size-fits-all job descriptions. The most pressing call was for companies to digitise and become more data-driven to allow for individual empowerment and less control.

Inclusion was another important factor for the young maritime professionals, who want to work in an industry and a workplace where they feel both included and empowered. They called for more leadership training on inclusive behaviour. They also called for the industry to find ways to develop specific inclusion indicators to raise overall awareness of the issue.

Decent working conditions were also stressed as a priority. Some of the biggest challenges quoted were long working hours, fatigue, and resulting mental health concerns. The young maritime professionals emphasised the need for a better working environment among seafarers and advocated for the development of an open evaluation system.

Stronger career prospects were another important call. They want to work in an industry or company where they can see a clear – but flexible – path forward, especially with regards to clear transition paths between sea and shore. The group emphasised the need to also explore career paths across different industries and sectors, catering for different perspectives and more flexible career paths across the value chain.

The call from the young maritime professionals is clear – but not always heard. The maritime industry needs to find ways to give a stronger voice to the passionate young maritime leaders of the future – today. If this does not happen, the industry cannot expect them to dedicate their careers to co-creating a flourishing and more diverse, inclusive, value-driven and flexible maritime industry, with decent working conditions and strong career prospects for all.

Siyuan Qin is project assistant and Susanne Justesen is project director for human sustainability at the Global Maritime Forum, www.globalmaritime-forum.org