Union offers firms $1.2m to train seafarers

Minister Ong giving a hongbao to a resident of the Sunshine Welfare Action Mission at the Singapore Maritime Officers' Union's annual Chinese New Year luncheon. To Mr Ong's left is the union's general secretary, Ms Mary Liew.
Minister Ong giving a hongbao to a resident of the Sunshine Welfare Action Mission at the Singapore Maritime Officers' Union's annual Chinese New Year luncheon. To Mr Ong's left is the union's general secretary, Ms Mary Liew.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

A union overseeing the interests of seamen will give local shipping companies $1.2 million over two years to encourage them to continue training seafaring cadets.

The Singapore Maritime Officers' Union will give companies $5,000 for each Singaporean trainee they employ under two training programmes to produce nautical deck officers and marine engineers for commercial ships.

The move is to overcome any reluctance by the shipping industry to train staff as the economy is pummelled by strong headwinds.

In announcing the training grant yesterday, Education Minister (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung said the best time for companies to invest in human capital is often when economic conditions are tough, so that they are prepared when the economy picks up.

It is also the best time "to strengthen the Singaporean core in the industry", he added in his speech at the union's annual Chinese New Year luncheon.

The grant is expected to train 240 seamen under the two initiatives, the Tripartite Nautical Training Award and Tripartite Engineering Training Award.

They are on top of around 300 Singaporeans already trained under the two programmes while working in 20 shipping firms.

Although both programmes are subsidised by the labour movement's Employment and Employability Institute and the former Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA), they rely heavily on industry support.

Companies must accept and place the trainees on their ships, pay them allowances when they sail, and offer them full-time jobs when they complete their training.

With the reconstitution of WDA to Workforce Singapore, the two programmes are now funded by SkillsFuture Singapore.

The $1.2 million move is the latest measure by the union to help shipping companies get through the slowdown. Last year, it set aside $300,000 to subsidise 6,000 hotel rooms to provide quality lodgings for seamen and lighten the financial load on the companies.

It also handed out $1.5 million to shipping companies to increase training and improve the welfare of union members on their ships.

Mr Lim Tau Kok, director of shipping company Pacc Ship Managers, said companies are in a cost-cutting mode"so any help by the union is most welcome".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 03, 2017, with the headline 'Union offers firms $1.2m to train seafarers'. Print Edition | Subscribe