With a head office in Germany and a network of owned manning offices in Ukraine, Russia, and the Baltic countries, Danica supplies more than 1,500 officers to shipowners.
Henrik Jensen, owner of Hamburg-based Danica Maritime Services and managing director of Danica Crewing Services, one of the largest independent crewing agencies in Ukraine, tells Maritime CEO about the challenges of recruiting new talent during the pandemic and about the business in Ukraine, where the company secures employment for more than 500 seafarers.
With regards to the Covid-19 pandemic and the risk of the best talent opting for a career in other sectors, Jensen, a Danish citizen, who has a background as a captain, thinks that although the maritime schools had their training disrupted due to lockdowns, this will not cause problems in the long term. He believes the problem lies elsewhere.
“The real concern should be about negative press stories, such as: up to 400,000 seafarers stranded for months onboard; the denial of medical care or medivac by some ports; shore leave bans, etc. This image does not support the acquisition of young talent to become the seafarers of the future,” Jensen points out.
Companies will spread their crew sourcing risks and add more nationalities
He also calls attention to regulatory bodies that cannot come up with a proper rule regime for emission reduction. “The industry has an image as being polluting and one parameter for generation Z when selecting an employer is the environment,” Jensen stresses.
He notes that in some of the key countries where cadets and future officers are sourced from, there is increased competition from the IT industry and big engineering design companies who offer well-paid jobs and target the same talent pool the crewing sector is recruiting from.
Danica Crewing Services has 20 vessels in full crew management. According to Jensen, Ukraine’s infrastructure with regards to maritime education is huge, with Odessa Maritime Academy alone hosting as many as 12,000 students. Ukraine is fully compliant with training, certification, and watchkeeping (STCW) requirements, and what he calls a “clean-up” by the authorities among training centers a few years ago has ensured that high-quality post-graduate training is also provided.
He points out that today owners are mainly interested in senior officers from Ukraine and that there is a lack of cadet slots, which means many graduates cannot get their required sea time to get their officer licenses, so they end up accepting jobs as ratings.
“I think that, as Ukraine invests in further maritime education capacity, then shipowners should also increase their provision of cadet berths to support the training of junior officers,” Jensen urges.
In terms of what will happen once the pandemic is over in terms of structural changes in how owners procure crew, Jensen believes that companies who had a single or dual nationality strategy will spread their crew sourcing risks and add more nationalities to their crewing pool.
“Some maritime employers have already been forced to recruit nationalities new to them and I think that, most probably, they will stay with the new nationalities they got onboard, except if there is an excessive increase in salary costs compared to their old crew,” the crewing veteran predicts.