WMU Contributes to African Ports Forum

The 2021 African Ports Forum was held in hybrid form from Douala, Cameroon and took place on 21-22 October. Dr Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, President of the World Maritime University (WMU), was invited to deliver a keynote address regarding Human Capital & Port Skills. 

In her remarks, President Doumbia-Henry focused on the human capital the port industry needs, as well as how to develop human capital. She described the evolution of ports from the comparatively basic seaports of the 1960s to today’s technologically advanced ports that handle mega-vessels. She highlighted the transformation of ports from labour intensive to capital intensive, and then to technology intensive, successively resulting in the human skills required expanding from technical skills, to engineering skills, and now to IT skills. 

Dr Doumbia-Henry remarked that as ports shift to digitalization and automation, terminal operators are able to better measure, monitor and control port operations, and also to achieve higher efficiency, better safety, and more energy saving. She noted that even if automation is not fully deployed, semi-automation can also significantly affect the overall efficiency of terminal operations. This evolution of ports means that port workers are challenged to acquire specific technical skills in order to meet new job requirements.

Regarding the future of ports, Dr Doumbia-Henry remarked that their future success will be subject to human capital with the right mix of “hard skills” and “soft skills.” Cutting-edge technologies will lead to an increasing demand for new jobs that require personnel with “hard skills” to handle data analytics, software development, cloud processing, etc. At the same time, “soft skills” such as communication, flexibility, leadership, teamwork, and management skills will also be necessary to leverage the technologies and related hard skills. 

Dr Doumbia-Henry stressed that as digital technologies transform traditional port roles, human capital development becomes an urgent challenge. “Governments, industry and society, as well as the private sector must join forces to deploy ambitious, evidence-driven investments, to help equip every person to achieve their potential,” she said. “Education and Training is a major form of human capital investment. In this perspective, our port sector must design effective training systems, provide workers with opportunities to develop themselves as valuable resources for the industry. By doing so, a port can create a healthy working culture that encourages employees to develop and pool their talents together, for the collective success of the port as a whole,” said Dr Doumbia-Henry.

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