2012 part 1 - Got Skills?

I get the feeling that the Marine industry is, has been, under the constant strain of "noise", "heat" and "pressure". Its kind of comforting for us engineer aboard, since this is our career, our kind of environment. We thrive in these conditions, and we are well position to weather the continuous "economic lows" on the prognosticator's radar screens. Well figuratively speaking anyways.

As I have done for a couple of years now (read 2010, 2011), I've summed up my feelings of the industry for the upcoming year. Nobody seemed to call "bullshit" on me yet, so I may not be off the mark completely. Please excuse my presumption that you care to hear what a run of the mill shipboard engineer thinks about the industry, the Canadian one in particular.

Last year in Canada, was a scary time for some, although for us engineers, I don't think the jitters were entirely warranted. I continue to get vibes from all three Oceans and inland waterways, that our craft is still very much important, and in demand. The main concern I estimate was more about people staying in their positions, to face the uncertainty around them.

Overall people are retiring, although for some, this has been stretched to accommodate the downward spiral of their retirement portfolios. Like usual the companies are keeping a tight rein on spending, meaning what little investment was made in training and rearing engineers several years ago "in the heyday", has long since disappeared, meaning that established engineer's value continues to inch up.

I understand from various sources, that this past year and currently, training intakes are down for marine engineers, and upgrading is also limited. All these signs point to a tight market for employers, which means a whole change in dynamics for the workforce in Canada, and I believe around the world. Take for instance in the UK, after a brief "scare", educational funding has been assure, for the time being, to training cadets.

In Canada, I sense wages being held back due to union contracts, strangely enough. An experienced engineer might be able to get more for his skills then what has been negotiated in previous contracts. I see various employers lowering their hiring criteria to get bodies into positions critical to their operations - more problematic ashore, but also at sea. I would characterize the situation as a tight one for employers looking to fill positions; and worsening over the last year. I suspect we will see a significant double impact from the retiring engineers departure, especially in central Canada.

In this market, mariners have long held their positions and conditions, and they, and their employers, have grown accustomed to these conditions. As you may be aware, the marine industry is not a static one, and I believe Canadian employers will struggle to adapt to the new realities - that experienced mariners are no longer highly trained and experienced, plentiful, desperate and easily manipulated.

to be continued...

This is a 3 part series, examining my expectations for the Canadian marine industry in 2012, as it affects us marine engineers, and other professional seafarers. It is based on feedback, discussions from my websites, real world observations and discussions, and media reports.  

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