Knowledge gap: Green fuels will create need to train 700,000 seafarers, consultant estimates

There is a “huge” knowledge gap among seafarers expected to handle potentially dangerous low-carbon fuels, a shipping expert has warned.

Peter Schellenberger, founder of maritime consultancy Novamaxis, said 700,000 crew members need training in working with these new bunkers.

The former director of Thome and OSM ship management said: “This is a critical situation and there is a need for interim solutions.”

He pointed out that training companies are preparing courses on dealing with toxic substances such as ammonia.

But the consultant added: “Of course there will be additional costs for owners/managers and the battle between managers and clients will continue due to the need for continuous improvement and the debate over who will pay for this.”

Schellenberger states that the crew has become a commodity, with seafaring personnel being able to change employers from contract to contract.

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Some shipowners manage to retain seafarers through personal relationships or incentives, and may have an easier decision-making process about the long-term benefits of training, he said.

New recruits are also now having fewer in-person meetings with senior officers after the pandemic, Schellenberger added.

“This increases the need for meaningful online courses and ship/company specific programs, and even digital twin efforts in the future. New skills will need to be certified and well documented in seafarers’ data set and documents so that they can be easily verified,” he said.

The Novamaxis founder believes that with strong standards, regulations and training, the risks surrounding new fuels can be “reasonable.”

‘Difficult discussions’

“But there will be difficult discussions in the industry once the first fatality occurs, whatever the reason,” he added.

Schellenberger said the International Maritime Organization and flag states are also working on this problem, but due to their size and multinational nature, they will need time for comprehensive solutions.

“Since the technologies or fuels are already in use and seafarers need to be protected, the industry must come up with self-imposed interim solutions for proper business operations,” he urged.

Schellenberger warned that ultimately, charterers will only work with ship owners who comply with intermediate or regulatory solutions.

“It is likely that tankers and the container industry will take the lead thanks to their stakeholders,” the consultant said.

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