JMC-WMU Joint Symposium on New Technology for Seafarers’ Future

On 8 November, the World Maritime University (WMU) hosted a joint symposium with the Japan Maritime Center (JMC). The Symposium was attended by WMU faculty and students, and was remotely streamed to an audience in Japan. 

Professor Maximo Q. Mejia, Jr., WMU President, welcomed the speakers and participants. He highlighted the recent WMU research report, “Transport 2040: Impact of Technology on Seafarers – The Future of Work,” that was funded by the International Transport Workers’ Federation and follows the 2019 report Transport 2040, Automation, Technology, Employment. The most recent report specifically explores and focuses on the role and direction of technologies and other global trends pertaining to maritime transport. 

Based on the trends evidenced in the reports, President Mejia said, “It is increasingly recognized that there is a need for all stakeholders to adapt to an evolving paradigm that challenges traditional skills…WMU remains committed to partnering with IMO Member States, academia, social partners and industry to provide cutting-edge education and capacity-building assistance in addressing the challenges and opportunities that arise with the evolution of new technologies.”

Welcome remarks were also delivered by Mr. Masafumi Shukuri, Chairperson of JMC. Mr. Shukuri thanked the University for hosting the seminar saying, “WMU is an exceptional organization with outstanding faculty and administrators from around the world, all working enthusiastically in important maritime and oceans subjects.” He conveyed the intent of the Symposium as identifying the challenges faced by seafarers to provide a deeper understanding of the future for seafarers based on new technologies.

Mr. Kitack Lim, Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), provided a video address as the Guest of Honour saying, “Seafarers are the backbone of the shipping industry and central to IMO’s activity. Their unique contribution to international seaborne trade, the goal economy and civil society as a whole deserves wide recognition.” 

Mr. Jeppe Skovbakke Juhl, Manager of Maritime Safety & Security for BIMCO delivered a presentation on Digitalization: Shipping Companies' Experiences and Prospects. He stated that seafarers will always be at the heart of shipping, even as their roles may evolve over time, and that the transition to automation will be gradual, providing time to adapt to the new situation and opportunities. 

A presentation on Future Skills and Competencies of Seafarers was made by WMU Professor, Momoko Kitada, Head of Maritime Education and Training (MET). Professor Kitada highlighted future skill gaps of seafarers and how MET can respond to the future demands.

Dr Khanssa Lagdami, ITF Seafarers' Trust Assistant Professor at WMU presented findings from the latest Transport 2040 report, specifically addressing the impact of technology on occupational safety and health of seafarers. Key points included the need for international regulations regarding mental health of seafarers in terms of the application of new technologies on board ships, adequate time and financial support for training on the application of new technologies, reliable internet access, and data protection for seafarers on board in regards to Artificial Intelligence.  

A panel discussion included the speakers as well as two current MSc students, Ms Dashbalabr Oyungerel from Mongolia who is a deck officer, and Mr. Mao Tze Bayotas from the Philippines who is a maritime engineer. Based on their experiences at sea, the student panelists highlighted the importance of improving working conditions on board and of showing a variety of job opportunities in the maritime sector. Lively discussion followed in a question and answer session with the panelists.

WMU Professor Aykut Ölcer delivered concluding remarks, highlighting the potential of the technology revolution to improve seafarer wellbeing including training, safety, and reducing the burden of reporting. He noted that although the pace of technological advancements is much faster than in the past, the future holds a combination of digitalization and automation for shipping to become smarter, greener and safer. Professor Ölcer highlighted two key takeaways from the symposium that included the necessity of supporting seafarers with lifelong learning and career development, and the importance of ensuring that the adaptation of advanced technology also promotes the health and wellbeing of seafarers. 

JMC conducts surveys and research, and makes policy proposals with the participation of industry, governmental bodies, and academia. The Symposium is an outcome of the Memorandum of Understanding signed between WMU and JMC in April 2023.

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