Training project for seafarers on zero-emission ships in the making

A new training project is being launched aimed at preparing seafarers for zero or near-zero emission ships as a way of addressing the imminent need for upskilling the workforce to operate advanced technological solutions and alternative fuels.

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The project was announced at the 2023 UN Climate Change Conference (COP 28), meeting in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, from 30 November to 12 December 2023.

The training framework, funded through the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and Lloyd’s Register Foundation, will equip seafarers with skills in decarbonization, and provide guidance for trainers and the industry.

The project will be run by IMO and the Maritime Just Transition Task Force Secretariat. Lloyd’s Register will develop the training framework for seafarers and officers, as well as an instructor handbook for maritime training institutions.

The World Maritime University (WMU), an IMO global research, education and training institute based in Malmö, Sweden, will provide academic expertise. A large number of organisations are involved through a global industry peer learning group, which will provide important knowledge-sharing.

Once developed, the Baseline Training Framework for Seafarers in Decarbonization will be first tested out in Asia through a programme led by WMU, with support from the IMO Maritime Technology Cooperation Centre (MTCC) Asia and other partners.

Training materials will be developed for all seafarers and for officers. The aim is to then expand testing of the package globally with all the established MTCCs and other appropriate organisations.

The timeline is to develop the training materials by mid-2025.

“Seafarers are at the heart of the just transition needed in the shipping industry, and training the current and future workforce is crucial to ensure that workers’ expertise is front and centre as the industry transitions and decarbonizes. We have heard the message loud and clear from seafarers around the world, they are ready to lead, they are ready to shape the training frameworks for the zero carbon fuels of the future,” Stephen Cotton, General Secretary of the International Transport Workers’ Federation, explained.

The training of seafarers aligns with the revision of the sector’s decarbonization targets and adoption of the 2023 IMO Strategy on Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships, which aims to ensure a 5-10 % uptake of zero or near-zero GHG emission technologies, fuels and/or energy sources by international shipping by 2030.

“The milestone adoption by IMO of the 2023 Strategy on the Reduction of Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Shipping shows the member States’ clear commitment to transitioning the shipping industry to a decarbonized future,” Kitack Lim, Secretary General of the International Maritime Organization, said.

To do this, we need to ensure no one is left behind and we need to commit to training the workforce so that they are ready. This collaborative project will help ensure a successful and equitable transition, harnessing the collective strength of the global maritime community.”

The need for dedicated training has been identified by IMO and social partners. IMO is comprehensively reviewing and revising its key treaty for seafarer training, the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), with input from industry, and seafarers’ unions.

Research commissioned by the Maritime Just Transition Task Force identified that 800,000 seafarers may require additional training by the mid-2030s in order to operate vessels run on zero or near-zero-emission fuels.

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“Moving towards a low-emission future will require new green jobs and reskilling, and the global maritime industry is no different. Future alternative fuel technologies, such as hydrogen, ammonia and methanol, means there is a vital need to up-skill all seafarers,” Ruth Boumphrey, CEO of Lloyd’s Register Foundation, said.

“That’s why the work of the Maritime Just Transition Taskforce and its latest training framework is essential to ensuring seafarers have the right training and skills to work in a safe environment. It puts seafarers and communities at the heart of the solution as the industry works towards achieving its target for net zero emissions for shipping by 2050.”

“2030 is just around the corner and we cannot be complacent about the needs of our seafarers and the appropriate training being in place to support them during our transitioning sector. Without our people we have no industry so seafarers should always be at the forefront of every decision. As we move forward into Phase II of the Maritime Just Transition programme, we must now all continue to work together and further build on the strong relationships formed in Phase I to ensure that our seafarers have the training they need,” Guy Platten, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping, said.

The package will be available to IMO Member States, for potential use by maritime education and training (MET) institutes to develop their programmes, as appropriate. A ‘train the trainer’ programme will also be developed to assist METs further.