The Maritime and Port Bureau and seven container shipping firms yesterday pledged to finance more young people to pursue careers in the shipping industry amid a global maritime labor shortage worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russo-Ukrainian war.
The firms that signed a memorandum of understanding with the bureau are Evergreen Marine Corp, Yang Ming Marine Transport Corp, Wan Hai Lines, China Steel Express, U-Ming Marine, Kuan Ming Shipping and TVL Business Group.
The training program has gained overwhelming support from the shipping industry, as it integrates resources from the government, large shipping carriers and welfare groups, as well as vocational schools and universities offering maritime courses and degrees, the bureau said.
Photo: Chen Hsin-yu, Taipei Times
The industry has experienced a severe labor shortage over the past few years, with shipping firms vying to recruit talent, Yang Ming Marine Transport chairman and chief executive officer Cheng Chen-mount (鄭貞茂) said.
“We welcome more young people to join the shipping industry, which offers well-paid and technically oriented positions. The monthly salary for ratings, who carry out support work for officers in all departments aboard, is about NT$80,000 to NT$90,000. The monthly salary of a captain is about NT$300,000,” Cheng said.
Life on a container ship is not as boring as people think, he said.
“Mariners must be skilled to handle various situations that could happen at sea,” he said. “Modern container ships are equipped with gyms, karaoke bars and other entertainment facilities. Crew members have their own rooms and are served daily with food prepared by cooks. They can talk on the phone with family members via the 5G system every day and have three months of paid vacation each year.”
More women are seeking careers in the shipping industry, which allows people to travel around the world and earn higher salaries, Cheng added.
Alex Li (李德仁), assistant manager at Yang Ming Marine Transport’s marine department, was a captain himself.
The maritime labor shortage has worsened due to the pandemic and the war, Li said, adding that Ukrainians and Russians account for about 15 percent of seafarers around the world.
The shortage is deteriorating mainly because of increased border controls, which often require seafarers to quarantine and follow other restrictions upon docking, the bureau said, adding that shipping firms as a result have had trouble recruiting mariners.
Demand for mariners would continue to grow, as large shipping firms are having new ships built to meet robust demand for cargo transport, the bureau said.
Bureau Director-General Yeh Hsieh-lung (葉協隆) said that students from remote townships and economically disadvantaged families have priority to enter the training program.
Each would be subsidized NT$100,000 to NT$180,000 per year to cover board, school tuition and living expenses, Yeh said.
Aside from students enrolling in universities offering maritime degree courses, those enrolling in maritime vocational schools can receive subsidies as well, he said.
Taiwanese shipping companies mainly hire mariners from China, Myanmar, Malaysia and the Philippines, while European and North American shipping firms mainly recruit from Russia, Ukraine, India and the Philippines.
Of the 1.89 million mariners working in commercial shipping worldwide, 10.5 percent were Russian and 4 percent were Ukrainian, a report published last year by the International Chamber of Shipping showed.
Due to the labor shortage, shipping firms often offer higher salaries or additional bonuses to ask mariners to extend their working time aboard.
Should the war between Ukraine and Russia drag on, salaries would likely rise, which would consequently increase shipping costs, industry observers said.
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