EBH SA Plays Proactive Role in Job Creation to Mitigate Maritime Industry Challenges

EBH SA Plays Proactive Role in Job Creation to Mitigate Maritime Industry Challenges

One of the greatest challenges which industry has to overcome is the current skills crisis which is severely affecting production, as existing resources are stretched to the limit in an effort to meet production targets.

However, this is only one aspect of the problem. The challenge of an experienced yet ageing workforce is also a predicament in which many companies find themselves. Although some are making an effort to overcome this by being proactive in terms of job creation, it would appear that many more are relatively stagnant in their job creation efforts.

The dynamic and internationally competitive maritime industry is one which cannot afford to be complacent when it comes to job creation and skills development.

In an effort to diversify and develop its workforce, Durban-based Elgin Brown & Hamer South Africa (EBH SA), a ship repair and marine engineering company with over 140 years’ experience in the industry and part of the DCD Marine Cluster, has embarked on a number of job creation efforts, driven by two specific requirements.

EBH SA Human Resources Manager Veni Gopalan reports that the challenge of ageing skills is one which cannot be ignored.

“There is a definite worldwide demand for skills in the maritime industry, and companies which have the skills are eager to hold onto them. However, this creates a problem when the workforce is ageing because the company will eventually be left with a skills void when all the older, skilled staff members retire and younger, unskilled resources join the company. We have seen that it can take many years to bridge this gap. We therefore took a strategic decision to be proactive now, so that we can reap the downstream benefits,” says Gopalan.

The second driving factor is EBH SA’s role in the maritime industry. With activities and operations stretching from sister company EBH Namibia in Walvis Bay on the West coast, to Durban on South Africa’s East coast, EBH SA is a key role player in the African maritime industry. Not only is the company a key supplier of skills, but over the years has become a major employer. With this in mind, it will no doubt play an important role in the expansion of the Durban port which will be taking place over the next 10-15 years.

“The expansion of the port will significantly increase its capacity. Durban plays a pivotal role in the global maritime trade context, because 80 % of the world’s trade with the East comes through the port of Durban. This means that there will be a lot of vessels requiring repairs, and we have to gear up our internal capacity to cater for this demand,” Gopalan points out.

She adds that the recent increase of activity in the offshore oil and gas industries is also a major driving factor.

One of EBH SA’s strategies in response to these requirements has been to increase its apprenticeship programme, which Gopalan points out is a great success.

“Of the apprentices that EBH SA took on last year, 16 were kept on as permanent staff. These employees will now be up-skilled and phased into the company in various departments. Following from this, the company will be taking on 22 apprentices in 2014.

“We are confident that the majority of these apprentices will prove to be valuable to the company and permanent positions will be offered to them,” says Gopalan.

Due to EBH SA’s position in the industry as an employer of choice, she adds that the company is also a major participant in decisions made by government and by the City of eThekwini particularly, in terms of job creation.

EBH SA General Manager Rob Deane is one of the directors in the eThekwini Maritime Cluster, which is an industry body involving all role players.

“Through this, we as an industry are able to lobby and engage effectively with government, in order to establish areas of common interest, one of the most important being that of job creation.

EBH SA takes its role in terms of the creation of maritime jobs as well as the development of related skills very seriously. We understand only too well that our actions today will determine the benefits we reap tomorrow, and that job creation in our fast-paced, demanding industry is one of the most important activities we can engage in to ensure a secure future for our employees, our company and the industry as a whole,” Deane concludes.


DCD Group, October 31, 2013