China has long been a global manufacturing power and has seen its economy grow considerably in recent decades. Now it has an ambition to become a global maritime power, building on the strong infrastructure it already has in being a major ship builder and operator.
The country undeniably already has scale and experience in serving this global industry, more than 500,000 Chinese seafarers work within the international shipping industry, with a further 700,000 seafarers working the inland waterways.
But, to reach its global ambition, seafaring in China requires even more manpower.
The success of China’s economic growth has meant that the new generation of workforce has the opportunity to earn as much in land based jobs as its seafaring counterparts.
So, why choose a career at sea, with all its challenges, when it’s possible to build a career that offers a good standard of living on land?
The shipping industry still has much to offer, even to Chinese seafarers.
At last week’s China Maritime Forum, keynote speakers and conference attendees discussed the challenges and there is a clear appetite to take an interest in the welfare of seafarers.
Industry professionals understand both the need and the benefit of investing in welfare provision. China has already ratified the Maritime Labor Convention (MLC 2006) which goes some way in making provision for welfare in ports.
The bottom line.
I spoke about how caring for seafarers benefits the bottom line.
The aim of Sailors’ Society’s Wellness at Sea is to take seafarers on a journey of self-exploration.
We do not want to pretend that we are experts on the lives of seafarers and understand that they are the experts when it comes to their own lives.
We want to create a space where seafarers can grow and start a meaningful conversation on how to be better seafarers, better husbands, better wives and better parents.
We believe that this programme will be a positive step in building communities on board vessels and ultimately delivering value to employers and their businesses.
When things do go wrong, we can help.
Our specially trained network of more than 50 specialist crisis responders is on hand to help.
We work around the world to step in and support seafarers and their families when things go wrong.
We now offer a 24-hour support service to victims of piracy, kidnapping, natural disasters, abandonment and major incidents, such as a homicide, suicide or fatal accidents at sea.
Dalian Maritime University, which is charged with training the seafaring workforce of the future, also recognises the need to invest in seafarers. Its campus enables thousands of students to pursue a maritime career every year. It was encouraging to see the university's interest in developing a welfare agenda - which would have the possibility to help China become a truly global maritime power and further support economic growth.
At the forum, Chinese business leaders talked about the way that churches and volunteers provide welfare services and seafarers’ centres in other countries. As they look to the future there appears to be a real interest in establishing similar services in ports across China.
Such an initiative could benefit both Chinese seafarers and those visiting from other countries.
This is a good start to the welfare debate, but let’s keep the conversation going!