Radical changes are needed to ensure that the education of seafarers does not lag behind the rapid pace of technological developments in shipping. This is demonstrated by a study which is part of the EU-funded Skillsea project.

The report analyses the gaps between current maritime training and the actual skills required at sea. Researchers interviewed more than 1600 maritime professionals – 1149 seafarers and 474 shore-based personnel – about the adequacy of current maritime education and training and what they see as the most important educational needs.

The biggest gaps between current education and actual educational needs are in the areas of maintenance (reported by 47 per cent of all respondents) and electrical, electronic and control engineering (forty per cent).

STCW Convention

The survey also shows that more than fifty per cent of seafarers believe that important issues are missing from the international standards of training, certification and watchkeeping for seafarers (STCW). A third believe that current training is brimming with outdated knowledge.

Approximately thirty per cent of seafarers say that the current STCW competencies for maritime engineering and monitoring the operation of the ship are not suitable for on-board tasks. 24 per cent state that they have deficiencies in navigation and twenty per cent feel that radio communication skills do not correspond to actual needs on board.


The survey also shows that seafarers experience a lack of creative thinking and problem solving (62 per cent), familiarity with digital technologies, including cyber security (61 per cent), teamwork and interpersonal relationships (55 per cent) and issues related to maritime law, insurance and P&I coverage (54 per cent).

The findings coincide with the call by the social partners and the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management for the STCW Convention to be revised to reflect the changing requirements of shipowners and regulators.


The four-year SkillSea project, launched in January 2019, explores ways to train future-proof seafarers by taking into account new environmental regulations and the rapid advances in technology, digitisation and automation. It is working on a blueprint for collaboration and creating a strategy to equip EU maritime professionals with the necessary skills to meet the changing demands of the industry.

This article first appeared (in Dutch) on Nieuwsblad Transport, a sister publication of SWZ|Maritime.