Dmitry Shchadin, head of Marlow Navigation Vladivostok: “Resources of corporate education programmes should be shared with high schools”
Fleet staffing issue is still urgent in the industry. Dmitry Shchadin, Director General of Marlow Navigation Vladivostok, tells how and why foreign ship owners invest into the national industry-focused education system.
- Mr. Shchadin, what is the share of Russian institutions’ graduates in your company?
- Our company represents one of the largest ship owners in the world - Marlow Navigation Cyprus operating 1,200 vessels with over 15,000 seafarers from different countries. The crews are mainly formed by the Philippians (50%), Ukrainians (35%) and Russians (15%). Russian nationals are graduates from the two high naval schools in Vladivostok and Saint-Petersburg. Annual demand is – 10 young navigation engineers.
- How do you explain the deficit?
- On the one hand, the personnel is subject to natural renovation as the professionals retire, on the other hand, young specialists tend to retire when the contract is over after 5-6 years of work and command assignment. Though our company ensures working conditions of world standard that are definitely superior to domestic companies, some 60% of seafarers getting to first base leave. Quite often, the reason is the salary, which can be 100 dollars more in other places. In our segment, salaries are approximately the same everywhere. However, neither regular increases in salary, nor additional motivation systems can stop the brain drain.
- What is the level of education in high institutions of Russia? How does it meet your company standards?
- We do not accept the graduates who don’t do practical training in our company. To work on our vessels – that are state-of-the-art boxships and bulkers – they need certain qualification. The programmes of initial education and further training are quite expensive in our company, they include practical training in Manila, Singapore or Hamburg. Therefore, we pay special attention to training of cadets and are very concerned about the fact that some 20% of the second year cadets do not return when they are fifth year cadets. There is a number of reasons including low interest in marine professions among schoolchildren, poor understanding of professional objectives by cadets, two-year gap between practical trainings when some cadets get out of contact or lose the professional interest.
- What do you think about the idea to introduce the system of contract commitment to state and private investors?
- Let’s take China where children are taken by a high naval school so that they are under a contract for 10 years. In fact, they work for a longer period, if not the whole life. It is rather a problem of qualification than an ethic problem. The cadets have no motivation for professional growth under contractual conditions. They do not need, for example, learn English. If we bind our cadets by contracts and spend much money on them I am not sure we are going to get a good specialist, not a person taking premature decisions. Unfortunately, it is quite common today. An applicant is a pig in a poke.
- What do you suggest to handle all these problems?
- I think, the solution is in the integration of efforts made by the ship owners and the institution. Obviously, the institution has no resources enough to renovate its facilities and update its training system. So, it would be reasonable for shipping companies to direct the resources that they spend for costly training of their personnel to implementation of educational programmes in a high school. I believe it would be good to create an initiative group and to establish a fond fed by the companies’ annual allocations. Five-ten thousands of dollars per year is a reasonable sum for our company and others. Together we could decide how to spend the resources – to acquire laboratory facilities or to organize special programmes. It is important now to get a proposal on partnership from an institution.
- Don’t you think that a conflict of interest is possible when it comes to allocation of investments?
- Generally speaking we share in the common cause staying in the same environment. For example, when we renew our staff to the prejudice of Russian companies (which hire our pensioners), we understand that it does not contribute to solving the problem. We all need an efficient high school system preparing specialists in different spheres. My own experience suggests that integrated efforts and targeted funding is an efficient solution. Marlow Navigation Co. LTD supported by IMEC has been cooperating with the Marine University for ten years already. Four years ago, under our initiative, a pilot programme was launched to teach cadets spoken English (poor English is a big problem of today’s mixed crews). Via the IMEC fund we financed the purchase of equipment, textbooks, teachers’ salaries, course organization. Initially, the programme was intended for those who do their practical training in our company but today it is available for all cadets. How much does it cost? It costs much. For example, Headway study kit provided to the University last year cost half a million rubles. These are considerable expenses for a single company.
- Do you hesitate over the fact that your competitors can take advantage of your efforts?
- Investments into education are associated with certain risks. Let the cadets have an alternative. I am sure that the winner is the company which takes care of its personnel at all the stages, from education to retirement.
Interviewed by Yevgeny Pankratyev