Creating More Currents

How many conferences can you summarize with “We will solve future challenges through increased collaboration”? Almost all of them, regardless of the industry being discussed.

But not “Creating MORE Currents”. PNBC, NTC and Odfjell worked together to create an event that was intimate, provocative and full of insights the participants could bring directly into their business. The event was held under Chatham-house rules, meaning we will never use any attributable quotes so as to protect the safe space we created.

The attendance was capped at 100 participants, but we had to add more chairs once people started hearing what was happening on stage.

We covered three topics, each topic with one hour assigned, and all panels consisted almost only of current and future seafarers.

The event kicked off with a dive into the issue of bullying and harassment at sea. One panelist shared an experience that had been suppressed for a long time, setting the stage for an open, raw and frank discussion. Current seafarers shared coping-mechanisms and shipowners shared how they work with these difficult issues. Stories of sexual harassment, stories of personal courage, examples to guide seafarers facing these issues onboard – all were shared openly and bravely. The audience lit up with questions and sharing of experiences, creating an incredible atmosphere in the room.

The second panel dealt with what the industry expects from seafarers who will start their career in 2030, and what current cadets expect as well. While some mention was made of AI and autonomy, most focused on the driving force of technology which will continue to reduce the number of crew. This drives a need to update both curricula, the method of instruction and the traditional organization onboard the ships. It also drives an urgent need to review how we recruit seafarers and assemble crew, not to mention how this will alter the ship-shore interaction. One panelist made a comment few, if any, had considered: With connectivity and AR, he expects to see his family every day and feel as if he is almost there with them.

The panels culminated with a discussion on how the first two topics challenge the hierarchy onboard. There are already reports of senior officers hesitating to do the right thing, out of fear that they will be reported on anonymously. Combine this with ubiquitous connectivity, a generation of future seafarers that view the world as a backdrop for pictures of themselves, and a low threshold for feeling slighted and you have a recipe for a very difficult management-situation. This sometimes turns the Master into a very well-paid Chief Officer, was a statement made on stage. To make the mix even more volatile, add in issues of culture. One panelist mentioned that even among people from the same country there are differences in onboard culture between ratings and officers. The entire discussion brought to the surface very difficult cultural and personal issues, which will require careful thinking to resolve.

Upon leaving, one participant said “This is the best and most tangible discussion we have attended all week.” Another participant, who is not in the crewing-industry, ended up with two pages of notes so that he could have better discussions with his customers.

We in PNBC, NTC and Odfjell can only thank the seafarers from Odfjell who joined us, the cadets from the NSA program and the panelists. They created four hours of magic.

We have already decided that discussions with this level of impact need to continue. There will be a follow-up during 2nd quarter 2024, and we are already excited about it!