The establishment of seafarers’ recruitment agencies is currently in the works, many years after the government first started seafarers’ training projects in a public-private partnership arrangement for the purpose of employment at international shipping companies.
At the moment, only foreign seafarers’ employment agencies (also known as Manning Agencies) are recruiting sailors for positions aboard foreign ships.
The Ministry of Transport and Logistics’ new five-year Blue Economy Strategy makes an allusion to the establishment of a government manning agency in Ethiopia by describing the current trend as having “implications on the future efficacy.”
The “National Blue Economy Strategy of Ethiopia 2023-2027” reveals that institutions and legal frameworks need to be built to control the employment of seafarers by these organizations.
There has long been debate over who should be in charge of overseeing the establishment of the aforesaid organization, according to representatives of the Ethiopian Maritime Authority.
The then Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, now Ministry of Labor and Skills, was in charge of developing the legislative frameworks, but Yeshi Fekade, the Authority’s head of communications, stated that they had not yet received an update on the present situation.
“The Authority’s task is only to regulate general maritime activity, excluding employment. However, it was also following up on the issue due to concerns that the seafarers were suffering because Ethiopia has no company with a permit for such work,” she explained.
Yeshi explained that the Authority is limited to the licensing and approval of seafarers, safety concerns, training issues, and the provision of paperwork, such as a seaman’s book, for their employment abroad.
The State Minister for the sector of employment and labor affairs at the Ministry of Labour and Skills, Asegid Getachew, revealed that his office is preparing the legal frameworks, such as a directive to implement this, but declined to comment further as works are still underway.
Among the strategic intervention areas the new strategy has is the maritime sector, which includes seafarer development. The establishment of new seafarers’ training facilities and the development of new ones are part of the intervention.
There are currently two facilities: the Babogaya Maritime and Logistics Academy, which is run by the government, and the Ethiopian Maritime Training Institute, located at Bahir Dar University. But the Blue Economy strategy reveals that there is also a plan to expand training of mechanical and electrical engineering university graduates in other universities.
The strategy states that international shipping companies like Maersk Line and Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) would be invited to establish training facilities for seafarers they wish to employ from Ethiopia, with collaboration from the government.
Yeshi is aware that there is also an initiative to establish a maritime training center at Arba Minch University. As included in the 10-year strategic development plan and now in the Blue Economy Strategy, the expansion of the training centers is a necessity, she said.
“There had recently been a discussion to start this at Arba Minch University, as well as at some other universities where electrical and mechanical engineering is taught. They should be located close to water areas,” she said.
Even though it requires big investment, any entity with the skills and capacity to establish the facility can engage with the universities, according to Yeshi. “I don’t know how fast it would be, but it is in the strategic plans,” she said.