As a UK sea-vision volunteer, I get to talk about maritime careers a few times a year to schools and colleges. What captures students focus, is size and complexity of the global supply chain and the important role that the UK’S 71,000 seafarers play in ensuring that the supermarket shelves remain filled, and the lights stay on.
Yet despite the valiant and sustained efforts of the Chamber of Shipping, Merchant Navy Training Board, Sea-vision, and organisations such as Maritime London, the essential role of the UKs maritime industry seems to go largely unnoticed by the general population, especially when compared to other maritime nations.
I think this is part due to the separation of the commercial functions which take place unseen in cities such as London, from the visible operational activity, which, since containerisation and vessel size growth, takes place out of sight to most of the UK’s population in locations such as; Felixstowe, Avonmouth, the Tees, and the Humber.
For most of London’s inhabitants, the Thames, with its predominance of passenger vessels, is usually seen as a tourist attraction, yet without it, further downstream, ports and terminals such as Purfleet, Tilbury, and the new London Gateway, would not exist.
In Europe where both the commercial and operational activities take place in the same major location, such as Hamburg, Antwerp, and Rotterdam, the maritime industry is highly visible thanks to a steady procession of large and small commercial vessels passing up the Elbe, Scheldt and Maas rivers, and as the industry is generally a major employer in these cities.
The UK’s ports are far more diverse, with the UK Major Ports Group (UKMPG) representing 70% of the tonnage handled, spread across 40 ports around the UK. Whilst this diversity may present a challenge in terms of raising the profile of the UK maritime sector, at least it spreads the employment around the UK, and creates jobs in regions where they might otherwise be scarce. It is estimated that for every single job created at a port or terminal, another 5-6 are generated locally for the logistics support services.
Returning to maritime careers, I have thoroughly enjoyed my 40+ years in the industry, and my initial training at sea on conventional reefer ships, delivering frozen meat, butter and cheese from Australia and New Zealand, and apples, pears and grapes from South Africa, demonstrated our important role in the supply chain. You meet, work (and at sea) live, and interact with a culturally diverse range of people. The maritime technical experts we use at CMR in our consultancy for our; due diligence, risk, safety and investigation work, have an impressive range of skills gained from many years of experience and are a constant source of knowledge and learning for me.
With the excellent support of the various UK stakeholder groups, I hope to continue to recommend the maritime industry at sea and ashore as stimulating global career path to schools and colleges in the UK.
For more information, see http://www.careersatsea.org
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