Rev. David M. Rider, President and Executive Director, Seamen's Church Institute

Rev. David M. Rider, President and Executive Director, Seamen's Church Institute

Autonomous ships and maritime security are hot topics. While important, let’s not forget how seafarers fit in the discussions. The maritime industry is rapidly changing, and autonomous ships may soon appear on the horizon. Autonomous ships are not, however, going to replace seafarers anytime soon. Emerging shipping technologies, including complex vessel designs, propulsion systems, and operations will require more and more highly skilled seafarers.

The need to attract skilled men and women for seagoing careers is also a maritime security concern. Maritime security is all about addressing threats to the uninterrupted flow of maritime commerce. One of the biggest threats to uninterrupted flow of maritime commerce is recruiting and retaining enough men and women who have the skills to operate the increasingly complicated ships that are needed to sustain maritime commerce. In other words, we need to make seagoing careers more attractive options for skilled men and women.

There are a number of ways to make seagoing careers more attractive. One of them is to provide free internet access to seafarers at sea. Today’s entry-level seafarers consider internet access like a human right. Having access to family and friends through the internet while on long sea deployments can be both a blessing and curse. But the benefits of keeping seafarers in the loop back home and thereby reducing the stress of transitioning between home life and sea life far outweigh any distractions they might cause.  

Seafarers bring their humanity to work with them, including family stressors, economic challenges, and other realities that pre-exist anything that happens in the workplace.

Keeping seafarers connected to home by phone and social media alleviates the stresses of juggling home life and sea life. Emerging technologies are not limited to ship design and operation. They must also be used to make seagoing careers more attractive.

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