Maersk Joins Shipping Companies Recruiting African Cadets

African recruiting
Maersk is launching a cadet program for South African mariners

Published Feb 10, 2023 6:30 PM by The Maritime Executive

Africa, with its relatively young demographic and rapidly developing economies, is emerging as a new source of personnel for the maritime industry. In an announcement made this week, Maersk joined others in the shipping industry that are increasing their recruiting on the continent. This comes as the maritime sector is challenged to recruit new seafarers and fill a growing shortage of qualified personnel made worst by the war in Ukraine.   

Maersk said in its announcement that following an extensive review process, South Africa has been identified as a high-potential crew-sourcing destination for the carrier’s fleet. As the world’s second largest container company, Maersk is currently employing 12,500 seafarers.

South African cadets from the National Seafarer Development Program will be considered for positions with Maersk. The first class of cadets is expected to join Maersk vessels starting in the second quarter of 2023.

“The importance of having geographically diverse pools of seafarers was highlighted during the pandemic,” said Niels Bruus, Head of Marine HR for A.P. Moller- Maersk. “South Africa is a natural choice due to its maritime legacy, and the number of high-quality South African seafarers currently employed in Maersk’s global container vessel fleet, many of whom hold senior positions in our crews.”

According to the shipping giant, South Africa is considered a high-potential crew sourcing area for several reasons. These include the country’s proven track record in providing quality ship officers, its favorable geographical location, an existing maritime infrastructure, a large population, and English language capabilities. In addition, South Africa’s socioeconomic profile and cost of living index also lend itself to offshore employment.

Maersk highlights that the company has already been supportive of the development of maritime education in South Africa. The A.P. Moller - Maersk Foundation established the South African Maritime Training Academy (SAMTRA) in 2003. SAMTRA offers a range of simulation-based skills development courses and it will now manage the Maersk South Africa Cadet Program.

SAMTRA is also a leading provider of talent for the South African National Seafarer Development Program (NSDP), a program sponsored by the South African government. It also receives support from the National Skills Fund and the South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI).

“There are quite a few companies now with their toe dipped into the vast pool of seafaring potential in sub-Saharan Africa. Yet they are just a small percentage overall,” comments Craig De Savoye, a specialist in the African maritime sector and Commercial Director at Protection Vessels International. “That said, companies like Maersk have an eye on the future and are skating to where the puck is going, not sticking around where the puck has been.”
The CEO of Celebrity Cruises recalls the story several years ago when she was challenged during a presentation by a young woman from Cameroon. Nicholine Tifuh Azirh recounted the bias she had encountered preventing her from pursuing her dream of a maritime career after having graduated from a maritime college in Ghana. She challenged the cruise company to increase its recruiting and hiring.

“Nicholine was a determined young woman and she was not going to let me get away without hearing her story,” recalled Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, CEO of Celebrity. Moved by the story, she set Celebrity’s marine department on a mission, and Nicholine became the first cadet on the Celebrity Equinox from a program with the maritime academy in Ghana. She has gone on to a career working as an officer with Celebrity Cruises along with several other African women that are also pursuing maritime careers with the cruise line.