Bright ideas to revive the big blue
A STEADY, high-quality supply of onshore employees with world class shipping expertise and operational know-how is one of the key factors in the growth of Danish shipping over the last decade.
Copenhagen has become the centre for office-based operations with shipping workers in Denmark controlling the day-to-day activity of around 50m dwt of Danish and international tonnage.
One feature of this land-based growth is that Danish shipping companies are no longer predominantly driven by staff with a previous career at sea.
The major influence on this recent ‘white collar’ phenomenon is the AP MØller-Maersk conglomerate, with many of its élite Maritime Shipping Academy graduates at some point in their career taking their skills into the wider world of Danish shipping.
“AP MØller-Maersk is the big locomotive, but a group of some eight to 10 owners and operators controls a huge fleet here providing for opportunities for the next generation,” says Danish operator Clipper Denmark’s managing director SØren Halsted. “With a shipping community like this now existing, the entire sector is attractive for young entrants.”
With 60,000 employees in 125 countries the Copenhagen-based Maersk conglomerate has for more than a decade recruited internationally for its two-year trainee programme, with links to leading business schools including Harvard, Wharton, Insead and IMD.
The Maersk International Shipping Education enrols around 450 trainees at present from more than 80 countries, of whom just 25 are now Danish nationals.
There is recognition in some quarters that the business will have to look beyond the Maersk seminary to turn out Danish shipping’s future decision-makers.
And the almost exclusively Danish cadre drawn from generations trained two decades ago and today climbing the shipping sector’s corporate ladder is unlikely to be replicated again.
For example, the Clipper, whose growth in a large part has been driven by this local skills pool, offers its trainees a posting programme to other agency offices outside Denmark.
And the Copenhagen Business School is one institution that is drawing on Denmark’s shipping business acumen and offering a tailored executive masters programme to a wider domestic and international audience.
The Executive MBA in Shipping and Logistics is a two-year programme, whose advisory board is drawn from some of the top names in the industry: Nordea’s head of shipping Lars Kyvsgaard, Lauritzen’s Jens SØndergaard and BIMCO secretary-general Carsten Melchiors.
The importance of maritime education beyond the corporate training room was recognised by the Danish government back at the beginning of the decade.
With figures at the turn of the century estimating that 125,000 Danes were directly or indirectly employed within the industry — including 7% of the private sector — government circles were aware that education had to be tackled to sustain the sector.
The study Maritime Strategy for Growth published in November 2003 pinpointed the need for an overhaul of education to sustain the commercial entity it tagged as ‘Blue Denmark’.
Mandarins with cross-party support from Danish parliament last year drew up a maritime education reform package to ensure more young Danes are attracted to a career at sea with qualifications that give a head start and keep them in the industry when they come ashore.
The modernised education programme now offers masters, ship engineers and dual-purpose ship officers professional bachelor’s degrees.
Senior dual officer training now takes five years and nine months, compared with Holland that qualifies top officers in four and a half years.
“If we are going to compete with the likes of the Philippines, it was decided that we needed to offer a training that is a cut above others,” says DMA director general JØrgen Hammer Hansen.
“It is expensive to employ a Danish officer so we have to offer something extra.”
A Centre of Maritime Research and Innovation has also been set up in Esbjerg, which will offer a maritime master’s degrees as well as research programmes.
A third tier of reform has also taken place with the closure of Maritimt Uddannelsescenter Vest in Esberg/Fanoe, as well as a ship engineer schools in Aalborg and Odense.
The Danish Maritime Authority has steered phased closures as student years complete their education.
“The reform means that education is concentrated in less and larger institutions to create more solid establishments that are sustainable,” says DMA chief examiner Hemming Hindborg.
In March, the DMA counted 2,416 students enrolled at Danish maritime centres and schools, including officer apprentices undertaking their ‘dual purpose’ practical training at sea.
This June, the Svendborg International Maritime Academy expects to graduate 63 dual purpose officers, with single purpose students graduating from Denmark’s navigation and seaman schools, and marine engineering colleges.
The maritime strategy report in 2003 also spelt out that shipping companies had to regard recruitment and education of Danish seafarers in Danish flagged ships as an investment in the maritime cluster and their own businesses.
AP MØller-Maersk, which trains an estimated 90% of Denmark’s officers, has doubled its training programme in the last 15 years and takes 200 Danish officer cadets each year, alongside 230 from India, the Philippines and the UK.
“The challenge for the shipping companies is to regard the immediate costs of employing Danish seafarers more holistically and acknowledge the value of the necessary, long-term investment,” the report declared.
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