A Nautilus-endorsed advice scheme called Coming Ashore has just been launched, offering Merchant Navy seafarers support with a move into a different maritime career. Darrell Bate, interim director of learning at the Marine Society, explains how the educational charity has set up the scheme and what resources it has to offer
The UK Merchant Navy has been working for some time on plans to provide better information to seafarers seeking to transfer to careers ashore, and we are now starting to see the results of these efforts – with industry-wide measures being taken to point people in the right direction and help them gain necessary qualifications and experience.
The challenges facing seafarers were identified in Project Ulysses, a response to the UK government's 2015 Maritime Growth Study. Commissioned by Nautilus International, Trinity House, Maritime London, the Merchant Navy Training Board and the Marine Society, the project was tasked with gaining a better understanding of the skills gap and education or training needs for seafarers wanting to come ashore.
An example of what could be done had been set by the Royal Navy, which runs a well-established resettlement scheme for its personnel leaving the service/coming ashore that is highly valued and successful. As a diverse conglomerate of different organisations, the Merchant Navy would not be able to do the job in quite the same way, but Project Ulysses felt that the Marine Society would be well placed to develop a scheme that would have a broad reach across the industry.
The result is Coming Ashore: a project launched this year that offers a 'one stop shop' of resources, together with an offer of training, mentoring and work experience for a number of seafarers who meet eligibility criteria.
How Coming Ashore can help
Through this new initiative, our goal at the Marine Society is to inform and equip seafarers to help them gain the additional skills and experience they need to make this a successful transition.
Although at an early stage, we have several industry professionals already signed up as mentors, many of whom are recording a series of helpful podcasts explaining the range of roles shoreside. Alongside these, we are also partnering with shipping and maritime businesses who have agreed to offer short work experience opportunities for seafarers during their leave periods.
We believe demand for support under Coming Ashore will be high. The 2015 Maritime Growth Study anticipated that the numbers of UK seafarers coming ashore will nearly triple by 2026, so support will need to be managed carefully.
While Coming Ashore will fund online content that everyone can access, those seeking personal mentoring and work experience will be filtered via a 'decision tree' that determines their preferred pathway and matches them to an available mentor or organisation. It's open to seafarers of all nationalities and ranks, but this will clearly suit those who are UK-based.
A question that we know the scheme will need to address is whether officers should stay at sea and get their Master's or Chief Engineer's ticket and the associated experience before coming ashore – even if that's just one trip in command. Broadly speaking, this is a sensible move, especially for those seeking fleet management/ship superintendency work, but more and more employers are considering those without command experience.
The 2016 Maritime Employers' Research Debrief found that just 23% want a Master's ticket and command experience of three years or more, with 53% accepting just a Master's.
That said, 89% expect additional qualifications which would require a topping up of many people's HNC to degree or equivalent.
At the Marine Society, we handle hundreds of enquiries each month from seafarers needing guidance on the best course of study in this respect.
Fortunately, there are now many suitable degrees and postgraduate courses available via distance learning. Other routes to consider are the examinations of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers or the Chartered Insurance Institute for those interested in insurance.
What kind of work is right for you?
What employers also value is previous relevant shoreside experience. This is where short work experience with one of our partner organisations would be of tremendous worth.
It would also help seafarers gauge how well they are equipped for a shoreside role – it may not be for everyone. A common difficulty for ex-seafarers is learning how to move from the ‘command and control’ management style at sea to a team-working ethos ashore.
The project will also contribute to the cost of basic personality profiling and psychometric testing. One of our project partners, Spinnaker (spinnaker-global.com), has excellent tools in this regard; for example, Facet5 and Spotlight, which provide seafarers with excellent self-awareness – very effective when considering career options or opportunities for the future, or considering any potential development needs.
Other resources provided will include CV builders and resources on interviewing skills, tailored to a maritime context and all readily accessible via our well-established Learn@Sea platform for seafarers.
Spinnaker has a very helpful set of 'maritime job families,' and with its help we will be producing a set of short video trailers that give seafarers an overview of each family.
Sign up to Coming Ashore
The first step is to visit the Marine Society website, where you can register your interest. You'll then receive an invitation to complete a detailed survey, and we will use those responses to assess your requirements. In future, this process will become automated using an online decision tree. We then hope to match applicants with mentors' availability and expertise in the chosen industry area.
Meanwhile, a range of media content including podcasts, blogs and videos is being rolled out through our YouTube channel, Instagram page, Spotify and other platforms, so do subscribe!
We're grateful to our funders: the Maritime Educational Foundation, Seafarers UK and The Baltic Exchange; without whom this would not be possible.
Their funding allows for the first year of activity, after which we hope to move to an individual subscription service subsidised by the broader Marine Society offer.
- Register for the Coming Ashore scheme
You can also read and listen to examples of Nautilus members' successful moves into new roles in our career transitions section.