Spinnaker's Chairman Phil Parry recently chaired the Seafarers 2011 conference in Singapore.
It was an extremely interesting event not least because of the very open and honest participation of the audience. Of all of the points that came out of the conference (including the fact that China produced 46,000 seafaring graduates last year!) the most disturbing and undisputed concern related to the lack of people skills and management skills in the industry.
We are talking here about ships officers as well as management ashore such as superintendents. Small crews, the internet generation and less social mingling on board have all combined to make it even harder for seafarers to gain social skills and good communications nowadays, although it has long been a running joke that seafarers' management skills aren't quite up to the job of management ashore.
Interestingly, since returning from the conference a young second officer has visited Spinnaker's office and told the story of widespread culture of oppressive management techniques, bullying (witnessed rather than experienced) and at best poor management, poor communications and a blame culture.
With retention such a big issue (bear in mind that a 1% increase in wastage rates will reduce the supply of officers by 70,000 in 2020 according to BIMCO/ISF) this is something we must get on top of. And don't forget that if we do retain him or her, today's cadet is tomorrow's Chief Engineer is the next day's superintendent. They will take their experiences ashore with them and, as is sadly so often the case, will in all likelihood repeat the cycle.