We must attract more young mariners to our profession and do everything we can to retain them.
The maritime community continues to have a difficult time with recruitment and retention. The pool of potential new mariners is shrinking and operators are competing with each other and land-based companies for this dwindling worker pool.
Is the pool shrinking because young people are uninterested or unmotivated? No. The big problem is a regulatory environment that simply makes mariner careers unattractive when compared to other professions. Just look at our licensing system, which is slow, complicated and cumbersome. While the Coast Guard’s National Maritime Center (NMC) has made great progress processing mariner applications, they still need to tackle the difficult challenge of modernizing and streamlining licensing requirements.
Safety of our vessels and passengers is paramount and a well-trained crew is a necessity. Yet we continue to put up roadblocks, such as the boondoggle TWIC card, that make it difficult for young people to enter our profession. If we are lucky enough to attract a young person, a cumbersome system makes it hard for them to get and keep their documents and licenses.
For example, an individual in my company was trying to renew his license for the second time. The NMC kept asking for more and more information that could have been requested at the start of the process. NMC doctors requested a litany of tests that our employee’s health insurance will not pay for. As a result, he had to pay for these things out of his own pocket to ensure that he would not be in a position to lose work because his license renewal was pending.
How many young mariners can afford to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars to work in the maritime industry? At some point, they will simply do the math and decide that another line of work is more attractive. Our industry simply cannot allow this to happen.