The four sectors in the maritime industry are: the up and down stream (which includes oil and gas production and iron ore mining, shipbuilding and marine cargo handling); and international blue water transport; near coastal water transport and inland water transport, all of which operate vessels that transport freight or passengers in relevant waters.
Around 25 per cent of the domestic freight task (on a tonne kilometre basis) is carried by ships, with the number set to increase. Over the last 15 years, the amount of cargo carried by foreign vessels employing foreign crews has increased from six per cent to 30 per cent, with only 0.5 per cent of export trade carried on Australian flagged vessels. This has contributed to fewer on-board training places, making it more difficult to train workers.
Much of the activity occurs throughout the regional ports as a result of mining and offshore oil and gas activity. The expected growth in port activity over the next five years will result in many more maritime workers being required to service it.
Approximately 40 per cent of activity in the offshore maritime (oil and gas) sector is based in WA. The sector employs approximately 2,500 staff hired directly to the vessels operating in the area and supports more than 10,000 staff in affiliated areas.
Since 2000, the State’s exports have increased from $25 billion per annum to an estimated $101 billion in 2012/13. This growth has translated to a near doubling in WA’s contribution to the nation’s exports, by value, from 26 per cent in 2000 to 44 per cent in 2013.
Statistics provided by TLISC indicate that 36 per cent of workers in this industry have no post school qualifications; 26 per cent have certificate qualifications; 23 per cent have diploma or advanced diploma qualifications and 16 per cent have tertiary qualifications.
Approximately 78 per cent of the workforce is male. Amongst deckhands there is approximately 96 per cent male dominance, with 97 per cent for marine transport professionals, which include Master Fisher, Ship’s Master, Ship’s Officer and Ship’s Surveyor. Of all the Maritime occupations, Ship’s Engineer has the least female participation, at less than one per cent.
The ageing of the seafarer workforce is a significant issue, with the average age being 44 years. For deckhands the average age is 48 years and marine transport professionals 45 years.
Only 5.5 per cent of marine transport professionals is aged below 25 years, with 57 per cent between 35-54 years, which could have a major impact on the workforce, especially as nearly a quarter of the workforce is nearing retirement age.
There is a general shortage of workers in the industry due to a previous lack of commitment from the industry to train; an ageing workforce and a significant increase in the work available.
Differences in regulations between different vessels, blue water, inshore, offshore and fishing makes it difficult for experienced maritime workers to move from one type of vessel to another.
The lack of industry sponsors and available training berths makes gaining mandated sea time difficult, particularly with dwindling fleet numbers. A big challenge is the capacity to maintain safety, efficiency, international competitiveness and appropriate environmental standards.
The lack of equity in funding for different programs makes the high cost of the practical component of training prohibitive, particularly for those wishing to progress their maritime tickets to move into larger vessels. This is exacerbated by loss of wages and in some instances accommodation costs while training, as well as the cost of training.
The industry is heavily regulated, and for many companies training is linked to regulatory requirements, not qualifications. This means that many workers have completed skill sets but do not have whole qualifications and funding is not currently available to employers for skills sets.
The skills shortage of marine engineers, officers, masters and marine pilots is related to both a global shortage and the decline of the blue water fleet. This has seen the pool of workers in WA shrink as activity increases and competition for workers escalates.
The increased use of dynamic positioning (DP), a computer-controlled system to automatically maintain a vessel’s position, particularly in the offshore oil industry, requires deck officers to have a DP ticket which involves a minimum time on a vessel, plus completion of a relevant course and can take between 6 and 12 months.