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International maritime conference stresses need for change

07 July 2011

The context of international shipping is changing and the shipping industry needs to adapt with it. This was the essential message from the 2011 Seafarers International Research Centre Symposium at Cardiff University.

The Symposium at Cardiff has become a regular event in the maritime calendar. Every two years researchers from the Centre, based at the University’s School of Social Sciences, take the opportunity to present their latest findings directly to members of the shipping industry.

This year’s event, sponsored by the Lloyd’s Register Educational Trust, saw a wide selection of stakeholders in attendance with individuals from shipping companies, P&I clubs, classification societies, trade unions, and maritime charities amongst the large international audience.

Papers on a variety of subjects were presented, yet all seemed to emphasise in some way the need for the traditional maritime sector to move forwards and progress in the face of development.

In a paper considering the introduction of more new technology on board increasingly sophisticated vessels, Dr Lijun Tang of the Centre highlighted the need for seafarers to receive adequate and timely training. The work underpinning his paper suggests that: too many seafarers fail to receive adequate training on new shipboard equipment and that many are left reliant upon manuals as a consequence.

A paper considering the potential of new ways of managing health and safety across supply chains was presented by Professor Walters of the Centre. The paper suggested that there are already considerable efforts to achieve this by charterers in some sectors of the shipping industry (notably the transportation of oil-based cargoes) but these may not be being matched in other sectors. Further work will determine whether this would be a very positive method for taking health and safety in the sector forwards.

Remaining on the theme of health and safety, suggestions were made relating to the changes that are required in the collection and recording of data if fatality rates are going to be created for the industry. Two new and alternative methods of calculating fatality rates were proposed which would not require maritime administrations to provide details of their local seafarer populations but would draw instead on established data relating to vessel numbers and registered tonnage.

The conference ended with a paper stressing the extent to which shipping companies can no longer put their considerable efforts into finding the ‘right’ people for a career at sea alone. Rather companies need to remain aware of the wider contextual changes which impact on seafarer recruitment and retention and need to address these if they are to maintain their position in the international labour market as a major recruiter.

All reports and papers published by the Seafarers International Research Centre are freely available on their website:

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Notes to Editor

1. The Seafarers International Research Centre is part of the School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University. SIRC was established in 1995 with a view to conducting research on seafarers. The Centre has a particular emphasis on issues of occupational health and safety. It is the only international research facility of its kind and has built up unparalleled experience of research in this field.

2. The School of Social Sciences at Cardiff University has an international reputation for excellence in interdisciplinary research and teaching. Their goal is to build on this world-class environment for staff to engage in leading-edge research of international relevance and for students to enjoy an outstanding learning experience. Research is organised around 7 principle themes; Crime and Justice, Culture and Identities, Education and the Knowledge Economy, Globalisation, Work and Labour, Innovations in Social Research, Knowledge, Science and Technology, and Health and Social Welfare. The School is home to several externally funded research centres, each contributing to the development of their respective fields of expertise.

3. Cardiff University is recognised in independent government assessments as one of Britain’s leading teaching and research universities and is a member of the Russell Group of the UK’s most research intensive universities. Among its academic staff are two Nobel Laureates, including the winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Medicine, Professor Sir Martin Evans. Founded by Royal Charter in 1883, today the University combines impressive modern facilities and a dynamic approach to teaching and research. The University’s breadth of expertise in research and research-led teaching encompasses: the humanities; the natural, physical, health, life and social sciences; engineering and technology; preparation for a wide range of professions; and a longstanding commitment to lifelong learning.

4. The Lloyd's Register Educational Trust (The LRET) is an independent charity working to achieve advances in transportation, science, engineering and technology education, training and research worldwide for the benefit of all