Leonidas Dimitriadis-Evgenidis Interview
Naftemporiki Special Edition
1 June 2022
1. The modernization of maritime education worldwide, as well as attracting young people to the maritime professions is one of the great challenges of shipping. With your experience in maritime education, what do you consider to be the new facts in this field?
A really interesting question. As is well known, world shipping accounts for more than 80% of world trade, and its importance became even greater during the period of the pandemic, as well as during the recent dramatic consequences of the tragic crisis in Ukraine. At the same time, worldwide shipping suffers from a lack of a six-digit number of adequately trained officers. Unfortunately, this shortage, and an even greater percentage, is noticed in the Greek Shipping, which constitutes 21% of the world fleet and 59% of the European Union Shipping, a shortage that constitutes an additional inhibitory factor for the much-needed increase of seagoing ships under the Greek flag.
At the same time, it is a fact that STCW, which provides the framework of minimum prerequisite knowledge for maritime training, which was last revised in Manila in 2010 and implemented in 2012, requires immediate revision, as the gap between its specifications and of modern requirements has increased significantly. The biggest gap is observed in the prerequisite digital knowledge and skills as well as in issues of environment and fuel management.
The modern seafarer and especially the officer, in addition to the love for the sea, must acquire modern knowledge and skills, in order to become worthy and competitive, a true Global Marine Professional Officer.
In addition to the prerequisite knowledge and skills, key elements for a modern Officer should be the adoption of rules of professionalism and ethics, the ability to manage the human factor, intercultural human relationships, and high emotional intelligence. Undertaking leadership initiatives, starting from knowledge, experience, and issues of corporate and environmental governance, with understanding and response to modern challenges. Durability and adaptability to a dynamically changing environment.
The Eugenides Foundation participates as a Work Package Leader of the European SkillSea program strategy, which will identify the future skills of the existing maritime professions as well as the future professions that will be created by the transformation of the industry. At the same time, I believe that the experience and contribution of the Eugenides Foundation to maritime education are well known.
The Ministry of Shipping & Island Policy did the great honor of trusting the Eugenides Foundation for the submission of a comprehensive proposal for a modern maritime education system. This was designed in coordination with all stakeholders from the Maritime Academies, academia, industry, and classification societies as well as in collaboration with bodies related to maritime education.
We shall see, as all this was done in absolute partnership with the shipping institutions.
2. What are the IMO policies in this field?
The IMO, despite the pandemic and the dramatic crisis in Ukraine, is systematically continuing its effort on maritime safety and greenhouse gas emission reduction (GHC) and on optimizing the content of maritime education. The IMO considers that adequately trained and in accordance with commonly accepted international standards seafarers, as it defines, with the right motivation and love for the seafaring profession, are a basic prerequisite for the smooth operation of shipping. Regulations and ship operations as defined by the progress of new technologies cannot perform if seafarers are not able to implement them properly.
In this sense, the attraction of young people to the maritime professions and an appropriate education system with the help of apprenticeship at sea are necessary conditions for the proper functioning of shipping.
In 2018, IMO started the procedures for its strategic planning, with a horizon of six years. The IMO is examining the management of the human factor, its capabilities but also its needs for the smooth operation of the ship, in view of the ever-increasing demands of today, and with a view to tomorrow, in order to review, strengthen and renew the required skills, and knowledge that will offer maritime training and such an important apprenticeship. The number of studies, committees, and activities is too many to mention.
All this will lead us to a revised STCW, which will not only fill the gap we mentioned between the Manila 2010 specifications and current ship requirements but will also predict future developments with emphasis on the environment, digital transformation, alternative fuels, autonomous ships, and etc.
However, the proper impact studies must be completed, in order to get the best solutions and in fact an international and holistic context, otherwise, the consequences will be negative for shipping and more. It is obvious that disruption in technology is moving faster than maritime education. In general, there are studies that claim that 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 have not yet been created.
Therefore, it is important to have a dynamic culture in the sense of a career at sea and to understand the necessity of lifelong learning and the implementation of adaptability. All this, of course, in human terms, and without exaggeration.
3. How are these implemented, if this is the case, in countries with a tradition in the production of seafarers, especially in Greece?
Today, about 80% of world trade is transported by sea, and about 50,000 merchant ships carry global cargo through a total of 1,500,000 seafarers, of which 380,000 are from the Philippines, while China, Russia, Ukraine, and Indonesia have a large supply of seafarers. In this context, it is completely understandable that the approximately 25,000 Greek active sailors are a particularly low percentage, always according to the needs of Greek shipping. Obviously, there are understandable reasons for this, but it is also clear that there is a great variety of systems, which give the necessary supply of seafarers in order to run the ships.
The response of seafarers to the new requirements of shipping obviously has several difficulties, for both practical and historical reasons. We believe that these difficulties can be minimized through systematic training, lifelong learning, and focusing on distance learning.
As I have already mentioned, the Eugenides Foundation has submitted a thorough proposal to the State in order to increase the amount of adequately trained Greek officers, because we need at least double the amount.
We shall see!
4. In recent years, a dialogue has developed on the homogeneity of crews and how necessary it is. What is your opinion?
The large increase in the global merchant fleet and the variety of job offers for seafarers, both at the level of officers and crews, make a prerequisite for the ideal operation of crews the co-existence of different nationalities. A basic requirement is the practice of STCW, the necessary knowledge of English, and most importantly the management of the lack of homogeneity and its proper self-management.
It is a fact that there is a huge variety of educational systems and levels, but they all lead to a common cognitive result and the acquisition of prerequisite skills. Proper management of human resources, both at the level of offices and ships, continuous training, and lifelong learning, but primarily the characteristics of leadership and crisis management ability, especially by officers, is also crucial.
I firmly believe that the Greek officer due to his psychosynthesis and extroversion can make a decisive contribution to the team spirit, guidance, and effectiveness of his team. He is also particularly capable of progressing in different cultural systems, a shining example being the Greek Diaspora.
The IMO is watching this issue.
5. What is the state of naval education in our country today? Are there countries that have taken initiatives to develop their maritime education sector? Do you have any suggestions?
I will focus on Greece, since each country produces its own officers with its own system, having its own special road map.
We believe that the maritime education system in Greece is constantly being modernized, through the improvement of the infrastructure of the Merchant Marine Academies, with new programs of Masters (unfortunately the new programs of the Engineers did not go through for reasons I will not mention), with the strengthening of the pool of first-class officers through Vocational High Schools, and with the partial reinforcement of the permanent teaching staff of Merchant Marine Academies. All the above are steps in the right direction.
We believe, however, that the State should allocate more resources to attract specialized permanent teaching staff, at the level of seafarers/technologists. It could, at no particular added cost, support students, especially in transportation costs but also in other fair demands. Personally, I believe that we do not need more Academies, but we must strengthen the existing ones.
Particularly important is our transition to the digital age and blended learning, to the digital transformation of maritime education, which will lead to de facto modernization of curricula and the necessary familiarity with advanced technologies.
The proposal of the Eugenides Foundation, as I mentioned before, we believe, covers the whole range, from admission to graduation and certification of students, including assessments, training, and anything else considered necessary, for a consistent and structured system of maritime education.
We underline the existence of an independent system for the certification of seafarers’ skills because we believe that this will be a catalyst for the quality upgrade of seafaring studies.
All this presupposes a direct and interpersonal policy of attraction in all regions of Greece, with the basic condition of adequate information for students about the maritime profession and its prospects. The context of attraction should not be limited to tradition and breadwinning reasons, through the course “School Vocational Guidance”, but to give the prospect of understanding to more young people the importance of obtaining a great passport for a better and more creative career, one of the Greek seafarers.