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Our (Indian) cadets, despite being hard workers and disciplined, ‘need to be motivated to be more committed in the profession’: Mr. Ashok Advani, GM, Pacific Manning Agency

DMET first Graduate batch pass out, Mr Ashok Advani started his sailing career with Shipping Corporation of India in 1976 and was with the company as Chief Engineer till 1991. He then made the move Ashore and joined British Company Denholm Crew Management.

In 2002, he joined Canadian based company Seaspan and was heading India’s Manning office in Mumbai.

The energetic and enthusiastic person that he is, Mr Advani boarded on a New Mission in August 2013, as  a Head of Pacific Manning Agency, First Manning office of a pioneer  company Pacific International Lines ( PIL ) Singapore and a division of PIL India to bring his expertise along with the long standing shipping tradition of PIL Singapore into India. Today India is 2nd largest country for supply of officers on PIL owned fleet.

Pacific International Lines (PIL) incorporated on the 16th March 1967, is a private held company in Singapore that operates a range of businesses spanning from shipping to container manufacturing and other logistics – related services, with the core of their business in container operations.

Company has grown exponentially since its humble beginning to become one of the largest private shipowners in Southeast Asia.  Today PIL is ranked as 15th amongst the top containership operators in the world. PIL celebrated its 50th year Golden Jubilee Milestone!

PIL commenced delivery of new build vessels 11,800 TEUs since October 2017 onwards, adding 12 large container vessels by end of 2018/early 2019 to its current fleet of 160 vessels.

How Indian sailors lost out on global jobs and how the situation could be retrieved, this is the central point for discussion in the interview.

India lost its prime position in the global ship market in the last few years primarly due our mechant navy employees increased demand for wage revision and improvement in service conditions when the shipping industry was in doldrums forcing the ship owners to look for alternatives, Mr Ashok Advani, General Manager, Pacific Manning Agency, a leading job recruitment firm in the shipping industry said.

On the denial of sea time for the cadets of who undergo training in our maritime institutions, Mr Advani said international shipping lines intends to recruit cadets whom they can train further and make them part of their institution rather that merely give them sea time and let them fend for themselves thereafter. So to get sea time experience from global shipping companies one has to excel in performance so that they could become full fledged employees after completing their course in the maritime institutions.

On whether the current trend of automation in the shipping industry will lead to curtailment of jobs, he said there is no doubt that the shipping industry is looking for cutting costs. The automation attempted in the  industry is intended to improve productivity and curtail costs and not necessarily intended to retrench the existing work force. Mr Advani said

The industry he said is facing ups and down for the past ten years and it is keeping its fingers crossed about the future,Mr Advani said sounding a note of caution.

Now, the Interview.

SS(Sagar Sandesh)- China tops the employment of Maritime Officers and Philliphines in the case of Ratings. India which used to top the supply of both officers and the ratings has now been pushed to the fifth position in global rankings. Russia and Ukraine have moved forward according to BIMCO ratings. What is ailing the Indian Maritime Education industry?

AA-China, Russian Federation, Ukraine during the severe shortage in early 2000 opened maritime education and training aggressively and promoted careers at sea and today they compete with other manpower supply countries. Philippines besides increased the supply. To be Supplier Of Choice, we need to demonstrate that our maritime education is among the best, able to deliver high quality seafarers and at low crewing cost.

SS- As many as 5000 cadets who had passed out of Indian Maritime Institutions remained unemployed as they have not been able to complete the mandatory on board ship training according to shipping ministry report. There is however chronic shortage of officers in the global shipping industry. How do you reconcile the contradiction?

AA- As per BIMCO, current supply-demand situation indicates shortage of officers by 2% whereas ratings are surplus by 15%. This statistics covers for 10% of global offshore fleet.  With current reduction of offshore fleet, the shipowners are not facing shortage of officers. However many companies are continuing the recruitment of cadets to protect forecast of shortage and add value in bringing quality of seafarers through own groomed cadets. PIL has been recruiting cadets 80-100 every year from India. When supply- demand ratio is positive, demand on competency level for recruitment automatically goes up.  We need to demonstrate that we bring out cadets amongst the best and be at first choice of supply!

SS- BIMCO ICS report says that there will be potential shortage of 92,000 Officers and that it will go up to 1, 47,000 by 2025.How are we going to tap the potential?

AA- BIMCO statistics does show shortage of 92,000 officers (11.7%) by 2020 and 1,47,000 ( 18.3% )by 2025. With 2017 ending, we do not see such crunch so far.  This remains debatable.

SS- What is lacking in our cadets an observation from the Manning industry? How do you think they can overcome them?

AA- Our cadets are seen hard workers with good academic background and disciplined. They need to be motivated to be more committed in the profession.

SS- Among the maritime institutions is there a role model in terms of curriculam and academia which other institutions could emulate. Is there a need for radically updating our curriculam and bring about changes in the examination pattern keeping in mind changes taking place in the industry?

AA- Recently we have been noticing that DG has been very proactive in bringing necessary changes in examination and assessment system. In addition, there is an urge to increase quality of seafarers at both level intake and at training level to demonstrate across ship owners globally the preference of intake of Indian Seafarer as the first choice! DG has been very firm on Comprehensive Inspection Program (CIP) to ensure gaps are closed at pre sea training level. We have to move aggressively.

SS-It now appears that more cadets are chasing limited number of jobs in the Indian market is this a temporary phenomeno or likely to continue as the industry is likely to take some more time to recover from the economic down turn? Is there a ray of hope in the near future?

AA- As I have mentioned, we need to demonstrate firstly that we are the best supplier of choice. This involves all levels, selection level of cadets, Pre Sea training level and examination/ assessment system.

SS- Global shipping scenario is likely to see increasing pace of automation in an effort to cut costs. How will it affect the manning industry in the long run? Will it narrow the scope of large scale on board ship hiring?

AA- Indeed the development of Technology / Automation makes life more convenience for human being.  Newer ships are with lot of automation mainly to bring down operating cost low and increase efficiency. This primary demand focuses on enhancing the training to be Fit for operating equipments smoothly. This does indicate cutting down of manning scale but also to be viewed with increase in tonnage / number of vessels. 

SS- One personal question… You do not look as your age. What is the secret!

AA- The secret of my looking younger goes to PIL. The joy I get in working with professionals & humble team makes me always proud to be with PIL Family. 

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