Making seafaring attractive – also in the future

 - By Mikkel Hansen, CEO

In recent months the maritime media have widely discussed the ways of attracting young people to seafaring. It is apparent that Denmark's largest export business is dependent on remaining an attractive profession for young people.

When we with SEAHEALTH started planning the program for this year's MSSM conference early in 2017,  with the headline: "Performing in a rapidly changing world", we were also convinced that one of the main issues we should focus on attracting and retaining young people - millennials - in our profession. If we do not succeed, we will not perform and we will get behind. With 2 keynote speakers and 1 debate session, we took this theme very seriously.

Below are some of the different conclusions and recommendations of the conference. But first a few facts.

During the last couple of years, 'the Economic Council of the Labour Movement for the Danish Maritime Authority' has prepared the report for employment and production in the Blue Denmark. A report stating that the direct employment is around 60,000, and if indirect employment is counted, it is approximately 100,000. The report also show a slight decline in employment over the last 10-12 years. The latest report from 2016 also states a percentage decline in the number of millennials since the financial crisis took place. However, the reports don't take a close look at the maritime educations.

On the other hand, we can find information on maritime educations in another report: 'Access to qualified labor in the Blue Denmark from 2016', prepared for the Danish Maritime Authority by the Danish Technological Institute in cooperation with This report analyzes the popularity of maritime educations (engineer, ship assistant, navigator etc.), and shows how large a proportion of these groups are still sailing, how many have left The Blue Denmark etc. The conclusion is that during the 00's there has been a stable increase of newly educated with an increasing tendency in the coming years. Though, if we look into the total workforce with a maritime education, the number was 18,076 in 2008, which fell to 16,169 in 2014 where the latest figures are from. For Blue Denmark, it is an advantage to be attractive to the maritime educations, but how many are still employed in our profession? For the engineers, it's just over one-quarter who's working in the Blue Denmark, while it's 76% for ship officers and masters. For skippers and ship assistants it's about half. Overall, there's a large proportion of maritime educations we have not been able to maintain in the profession.

But how do we ensure that we are still attractive for millennials - both at sea and on shore in the Blue Denmark? We take a look at some of the conclusions from the MSSM conference:

  • Collaborate and co-create, work in projects, squads or POD’s instead of always in the same team.

  • They want an experience. To make a difference you have to indulge your employees in an immersive experience

  • Management layers disappear. Employees need to be empowered to show initiative. Hierarchy structures disappear

  • They change jobs more often. Switching jobs is no longer a no-go. New joiners stay on average 2-3 years

  • Work at any location. With everything in the cloud, working remotely will become easier

If this is what millenials expect form the workplace - how do we live up to this. Some of them might be a long-shot, but there are some of the points above where we really need to change.

Consider management layers - how do we make them disappear onboard? Do we dare?

Switching jobs too often is not considered best practise by many of our customers, e.g. the oil majors. How do we find a way of managing our customers expectations - as well as our seafarers?

How do you support collaboration and co-creation, especially in environments which are strictly controlled by procedures?

There is plenty of work to do to continue to make seafaring attractive, so come along and be part of the change instead of resisting it!