Do Not Set Seafarers Up to Fail Cautions ABS Chairman, President and CEO, Christopher J. Wiernicki

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ABS CEO Marks U.N. Day of the Seafarer with a Call for Seafarers to Take Priority as We Design Shipping’s Digital Future

(HOUSTON) “Shipping’s digital revolution must have its roots in the human factor. Expecting today’s shipboard crews to adopt a digital mindset without the right skills puts them in an untenable position and risks safety for everyone.”

That is the message from ABS Chairman, President and CEO, Christopher J. Wiernicki, who is marking the 10th annual United Nations Day of the Seafarer with a call to give crews the support they need to succeed in the digital era.

“As a whole, our industry still tends to view crews with a 20th-century mindset and to approach their challenges  with 20th-century attitudes, while at the same time saddling them with the burdens and responsibilities of 21st-century technologies,” said Wiernicki. “We can — and should — do better as we apply digital technologies to drive safety and efficiency; we must also deliver a step-change improvement in the quality of life at sea and careers opportunities for shipboard crews.

“When an organization puts digital concepts ahead of people’s abilities to fully leverage those concepts, it introduces challenges and difficulties into work processes that compromise the effectiveness and possibly even the health and safety of the people on the front lines who should be the prime beneficiaries of digitalization.

“Digitalization is often called “the key driver of Industry 4.0”, but it is not. The key driver of Industry 4.0 is the development and dissemination of digital skills and qualifications among the labor pool. This is a challenge, as seafarers are typically sourced from developing countries where digital penetration is low.

“As we build out the technology of Industry 4.0, we must always check our progress by asking whether our seafarers are being adequately trained to use and cope with the advanced digital tools they’re given.”

The 2020 Day of the Seafarer campaign pays tribute to seafarers, acknowledging their sacrifice and the issues they face. It encourages everyone to treat seafarers with the respect and dignity they deserve so that they can continue to provide their vital services to keep world trade moving.

Wiernicki believes that only by fully accounting for the welfare of seafarers can shipping meet its sustainability goals.

“Blending the human and digital components of our new normal such that they reinforce each other’s strengths and support each other’s weaknesses will surely prove the only route to a truly sustainable future,” he added.