Local seamen need to buck up if they want to see better employment prospects.
The Malaysian Maritime Academy (ALAM) who trains local seafarers claimed that local shipping companies are not so keen on hiring the locals as they find them less efficient and too demanding.
“They say our seafarers are not hardworking, not disciplined and demand a high salary compared to the foreigners,” said its chief executive officer M. Adthisaya Ganesen.
He said these companies are instead outsourcing workforce from foreign crew supply agencies.
“There are many foreign crew supply agencies around providing crew who are already trained for the job at a very low price.”
According to a survey done by the Maritime Institute of Malaysia, there are only 38% of Malaysian seafarers who are serving on Malaysian ships.
To make up the remaining manpower requirements, foreigners were employed.
The top five countries that dominated the work force on Malaysian vessels are: Philippines (2,684), Indonesia (1,653), China (1,159), India (951) and Vietnam (284).
Adthisaya Ganesen said seafarers need to change their attitude and mindset towards the job if they want to be hired by shipping companies.
“Many of them have the attitude that being a seafarer is just another job. They just do it for the money. They think they can do the bare minimum and still get paid at the end of the month. They fail to think long-term.”
“ALAM has come up with a two week course to transform the mindset of seafarers.
“We believe that the course will help them change their attitude and make them more disciplined,” he said.
“The course was jointly developed with MISC and covers amongst others motivation talks, awareness on health, safety, security and environment, corporate social responsibility and team building.”
Adthisaya Ganesen also said that the industry is suffering a shortage of seafarers.
Statistics from the Maritime Department show that we have about 30,000 seafarers but Adthisaya Ganesen said those records include non-active and retired seafarers.
“The records need to be cleaned up. The reality is that 50% of the officers working on board Malaysian vessels of 1,000 grt and above are foreigners who are mainly from Philippines, Indonesia, China and India.
“As for the domestic and home trade vessels 70% of the workforce in Malaysia are also foreigners,” he said.
He said ALAM has been trying very hard to attract school leavers to choose a career in this industry but they will need support from shipping companies to sponsor these students.
He also emphasised that ALAM not only serves MISC’s requirement but also that for the industry and nation.
“In fact, there are many students who are interested to pursue career at sea but ALAM is unable to accept above a certain number due to the lack of sponsorships and the lack of training berths onboard ships.
“Shipping companies do not want to spend money training these inexperienced people,” he said.
The number of new entrants trained by ALAM from year 1999 to 2003 showed that the applicants keep rising, while those accepted remain a straight line on the graph.
Adthisaya Ganesen said ALAM’s capacity has not been exploited at the moment.
“We have the capacity to accommodate up to 10,000 students at any one time but right now we only have 670 students. Ninety per cent of them are being sponsored by MISC,” he said.
He added that out of the 3582 vessels of 1,000 grt and above, 82 belong to MISC.
“Where is the source for the manpower for the remaining vessels of 1,000 grt and above?”
Adthisaya Ganesen said it was high time that shipping companies took a step forward by training the local seafarers.
“Instead of just complaining that our seafarers are not up to mark, they should work towards improving their quality. Of course this would involve training and re training in order to get the results,” he said.
In an immediate reaction, local shipping companies claim that they welcome local seafarers on board but there are not many seafarers to choose from.
Alam Maritim (M) Sdn Bhd managing director Azmi Ahmad said shipping companies are facing difficulty finding local crew to work on board offshore vessels. This has forced them to turn to foreign labour.
He also said local seamen preferred onshore jobs to sailing.
“Some of them demand high salaries as they know that there is a demand for local crew,” he said.
Azmi also agreed that many of the local seafarers require training and has no qualms about training them.
“Many of them are not trained to work on offshore vessels. We have to train them ourselves when we hire them.
EA Technique (M) Sdn Bhd managing director and chief executive officer Datuk Abdul Hak Md Amin said he doesn't mind paying locals higher salaries than foreigners but some of the locals fail to meet expectations.
“The common problems we have with some locals are drug addiction, they abandon ship, do not respect their superiors, get involved in brawls in pubs and they are not hardworking.
“They take their job for granted as they know that shipping companies give priority to locals,” he said.
Abdul Hak also said that he prefers taking in crew that have basic training.
“Spending money to train them can be quite risky as we don't really know their background and if they will remain loyal to us. There have been cases where we sponsor them and they abandon ship. Some get into trouble with the police and we are forced to sack them. In these cases they can't pay us back,” he said.
Abdul Hak said it costs up to RM7,000 to sponsor one crew.
“We don't mind sponsoring them after they have proved themselves. They can come in with basic training and after a year or two we would sponsor them to further enhance themselves,” he said.
Abdul Hak agrees with ALAM that the local seamen need to change their attitude and mindset.
“It would be good if ALAM can train them to have leadership qualities, be disciplined and hard working,” he said.