Up to 800,000 Seafarers Will Need Training on Zero-Carbon Fuels

Seafarer on the bridge deck of a tug
IMO file image

Published Nov 8, 2022 10:27 PM by The Maritime Executive

At COP27, the shipping industry's unions and owners have joined hands to promote new seafarer training plans for the green transition. According to new research commissioned by the UN's Maritime Just Transition Task Force, up to 800,000 seafarers will need to be trained on new fuels and technologies by 2050 under realistic decarbonization scenarios - and the ICS, ITF, IMO, ILO and UN Global Compact have a plan. The joint effort makes shipping the first global industrial sector to unite unions, business owners and UN organizations to address the workforce's green transition, according to UN Global Compact CEO Sanda Ojiambo. 

“Seafarers are prepared and willing to be part of this transition. But crew want to know that the fuels they’re handling are indeed safe, and that we as an industry have the training pathways established to upgrade their skills," said Stephen Cotton, the general secretary of the ITF. 

The Task Force commissioned DNV to study training needs for a decarbonized shipping industry, and the findings show an immediate need to begin building the infrastructure for training and upskilling. However, as with the rest of the industry, the training subsector will need more clarity on what future fuels will dominate the energy landscape - an uncertain prospect at present. 

DNV's study looked at three commonly-used green transition scenarios, including its own maritime forecasts. The lowest-ambition scenario, modeled on the IMO's 50 percent cut by 2050 goal, would require training up 300,000 seafarers to work with new green fuels by midcentury. The most ambitious, full industry-wide decarbonization by 2050, would require some additional training for 450,000 seafarers by the end of this decade alone, plus another 800,000 by the mid-2030s. 

The joint union-industry action plan draws on this study to propose 10 actions, starting with the most difficult one: reaching agreement on how fast and how far the industry must decarbonize. Once there is more certainty on the trajectory of the green transition, it will be easier to train for it. 

The plan also calls for strengthening training standards by overhauling STCW, putting health and safety first in training priority, setting up national advisory councils on required mariner skills, reducing seafarer attrition, and supporting full mariner career paths - including the transition to a career ashore as digitalization picks up steam.

"Our first priority must be to achieve safe decarbonization. We must take a collaborative approach to safeguard our people, our ships and our environment. This report points to the challenges and the tangible actions the industry can take to support and protect its workforce," said Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen, CEO of DNV Maritime.