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  • 12/03/2019 09:29 AM

    Cadetships: young seafarers will turn the tide

    Australia’s maritime industry faces a dwindling workforce unless a new generation of seafarers steps on board. Thankfully, young mariners like Callum are helping to turn the tide.

    “What's there not to love about working at sea — I love it! I grew up around the ocean; it’s a big part of who I am. I feel at home at sea. It’s the best feeling to hear the engines start up and then away you go.”

    Twenty-one-year-old Callum from Western Australia started his ocean-going career on fishing vessels before he wanted to take the next step in the maritime industry. But Callum is in a tiny minority of young Australians taking to the seas.

    CadetImage: Callum on deck as part of his cadetship through Port Authority of New South Wales

    Australia has 5,646 seafarers working in its maritime industry but over half of this workforce is aged over 46 — and only 8 per cent is under 30. The findings by the industry body Maritime Industry Australia in its 2018 Seafaring Skills Census point to a dwindling workforce, with forecasts showing a 560-plus shortage of Australian seafarers by 2023.

    To build the Australian maritime skill base and help young seafarers get their start in the industry, Port Authority of New South Wales’ launched a new cadet program last year.

    The program gives young seafarers placements on sea-going vessels so they can get the 18-months of sea-time experience they require for their Watchkeeping Certificate — an international qualification that allows seafarers to perform vessel navigation duties.

    It’s a vital step in many maritime careers, but many young seafarers find securing that experience a serious stumbling block.

    “To make your way in this industry, you need to get your sea time but the hardest thing is getting your foot in the door,” says Callum. “Once you get that start, that's when you get the ball rolling. I couldn't believe it when I got the call to hear that my application to the cadet program had been successful!”

    Through Port Authority’s cadet program, Callum has already secured his first eight weeks at sea on a placement on board the ICS Silver Lining, a 140 m general cargo ship carrying bulk commodities and containers between Australian ports.

    Now, Callum has joined the 87-metre Mermaid Inscription, a supply vessel operating from Darwin to the many oil platforms in the Timor Sea.

    CadetsImage: Cadets are mentored throughout Port Authority’s two-year program

    “The cadetship will really help me progress my maritime career,” says Callum. “I’m getting experience doing all kinds of tasks; if ever I need to know something, the crew are more than happy to help. I'm out here on the bigger vessels learning valuable skills every day while getting a better understanding of all different parts of the industry. It’s really going to help me broaden my horizons.”

    “My next step after the cadetship is to go back to the Australian Maritime College to get my Watchkeepers Certificate and just take it from there.

    “Don't stop trying to get your start in this industry. You don't need to take a big leap at the start; just take it step by step and learn all the way. If you're keen on working on vessels in the maritime industry, it doesn't matter where you start — just get going. It doesn't matter whether it's as a deckhand for a fishing or whale-watching charter, or on a trawler like me. Start small, work your way up and never stop trying to learn something.

    “You never know where it may take you but wherever I’m going, I'm on my way.”

    Find out more about careers at Port Authority of New South Wales