New IMarEST report – Meeting the challenges of the marine sector: 2023 and beyond

Source: press release, 28 September 2022

illustration: IMarEST
illustration: IMarEST

A new report from the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science & Technology (IMarEST) identifies the skills gap as one of the major challenges the marine sector faces over the coming decade. The report – Challenges in the Marine Industry: 2023 and beyond – is based on short, medium and long-term challenges identified by over 700 IMarEST professional members in a survey. Responses show that concerns broadly align along the themes of people (skills), technology, and the environment.

Gwynne Lewis, Chief Executive of the IMarEST says, “The findings reflect the daily experiences of our members and provide a valuable insight into the challenges our sector faces over the next decade. It is clear to see that the themes and challenges are deeply interconnected and reinforce the need for continuing collaboration between marine scientists, engineers, and technologists to find solutions and secure the future of the sector.”

Chief among the theme related to people and skills, is the challenge of being able to attract new talent and retain existing expertise. Member responses included such comments as: a “lack of interest from young people to enter the engineering and technical fields”, a “lack of experienced engineers; especially ones with hands-on and practical experience to support their new recruits’ technical education and knowledge”, and a “general lack of engineers also means that there are fewer engineers to whom to pass the lifelong experiences of other engineers”, are among the many responses.

Martin Shaw, President Elect of the IMarEST says, “The challenges raised by our members were echoed in a recent conversation I had with shipowners in Athens who are focused on two things with manning being the big one. Covid’s impact on seafarers and on relieving patterns is still making a difference and on top of that the Ukraine crisis has affected 30% of the officer complement of the tanker industry.”

Challenges associated with protecting the environment was also raised as one of the major issues for the medium to long term. Concerns included decarbonisation, reaching net zero, climate change and mitigation, and being able to meet regulations.

Alastair Fischbacher, IMarEST President, says, “The issue of sustainability has become mainstream and particularly so in the marine sector. From being a fringe topic, it has now taken centre stage and there is increasing interest, participation and, importantly, expectation; in time it will become ingrained. As an Institute, the breadth and depth of expertise of our members who are working in engineering, science and technology is unparalleled, and gives us great insight and understanding of the issues, challenges, and potential solutions.”

Technology is the third theme raised as a challenge and opportunity for the future, with expectation of the expansion of autonomous shipping, increased digitisation and further introduction of artificial intelligence systems.

Kevin Daffey, IMarEST Chair of the Board of Trustees, says, “The sector is already embracing innovation and there is much more to come across all areas of marine, not just shipping. It is an exciting time and one of much opportunity for all of us. However, we also must recognise that it will bring disruption and challenges. First and foremost, we must remember to put the human front and centre.”

In addition to this report, the IMarEST, together with Protolabs, also ran a Digital Manufacturing survey, in which 65% of respondents identified decarbonisation and lack of expertise/skilled personnel as the number one challenge specifically for the maritime sector.

Tim Kent, Co-Chair of the IMarEST Technical Leadership Board, says, “I think the findings of both surveys show that anticipating future skills is vital if the marine sector is going to be able to apply current and future technologies and achieve environmentally acceptable and commercially sustainable outcomes.”