Sentinel Marine

9 May 2022

Seafaring Skills for 21st Century

While our nation has a long and illustrious seafaring heritage, the maritime industry is increasingly looking to the future to ensure it continues to grow and thrive. And that means attracting the next generation of seafarers, leaders, and decision-makers to eventually take over the helm.

With a growing fleet of some of the North Sea’s most efficient emergency response and rescue vessels, Sentinel Marine has a track record of nurturing emerging young talent across their workforce. But with a competitive recruitment market, how do you make a maritime career an attractive proposition to school leavers today?

Rory Deans, chief Executive officer at Sentinel Marine, who began his career as a maritime cadet, debunks some of the myths about life at sea and highlights the 21st Century skills in demand across a diverse range of maritime careers to inspire the next generation of seafarers to step onboard.

A changing industry

A far cry from the physical, male-dominated image of the past, today’s UK maritime sector is a diverse and dynamic industry with its sights firmly set on the future. But it is an industry that is also undergoing a significant transformation.

As it works to adapt to a rapidly changing world, including digitisation, A.I and other emerging technologies, the maritime industry has evolved many of the roles within its workforce. And this includes widening the skillset for new recruitment to attract the young talent the maritime sector needs into its ranks.

Sentinel Marine recognises the essential role young people will play in the future of the business and the high-quality service we offer to all our clients. This is why it has committed to supporting 30 new cadets through their maritime training by 2023.

Rory Deans says, “It was essential that we, and the wider industry, raised the profile of the varied career opportunities on offer to young people.

“We’ve got a long track record of nurturing new talent in the marine sector. And, with our growing fleet, we are always keen to inspire the next generation of seafarers and to raise awareness of the diverse range of maritime careers.”

From able-bodied to able-skilled

The able-bodied seafarer – or AB - is a term engrained in the maritime lexicon, representing an essential member of the crew and the largely physical and manual work they are required to do. ABs are vital to any vessel and work across operations, maintenance, and safety. The role also gives the impression that seafarers must be able to conduct very physically demanding, manual jobs – hence the term, ‘able-bodied’.

But there is a shift in the perception of the able-bodied seafarer in general to ‘able-skilled’, which represents the technology-driven changes in the maritime industry.

From Artificial Intelligence and algorithms for data-driven and repetitive tasks, to automated safety systems and digitised control centres, technology is redefining the core roles onboard ship. And in turn, this shift to ‘able-skilled’ is opening up maritime careers to a much wider pool of young talent.

Bridging the skills gap

By 2050, according to the Department of Transport, the maritime sector will be a high-tech industry with a highly-skilled (able skilled) workforce.

But, says Rory, the recruitment for the maritime leaders of the future has already started.

“To have the next generation of industry leaders, we need to upskill today, and that includes recognising and supporting the young talent coming out of our schools, universities, and apprenticeships. The specific skills of our new recruits, cadets and apprentices will help to ensure the UK’s maritime sector can navigate a path to a bright and successful future.”

IT, digital technologies, cyber security, and STEM-based skills as well as softer skills such as problem-solving, communication and leadership, are all emerging as desired attributes, alongside the more traditional seafaring aptitudes. This means crews will be required to have broader skills beyond the mandatory maritime qualifications.

Routes into the maritime industry are also more individual-focused than in the past, with multiple pathways into a hugely rewarding seafaring career. As well as graduates, college-based maritime training, and career-changers, the industry also some exceptional work-based apprenticeships for younger people.

Steering towards a greener future

One of the maritime industry’s biggest challenges – decarbonisation – could also be one of its biggest draws when recruiting today’s apprentices and new seafarers.

With emerging zero-emission technologies, the move to green seafaring is more closely aligned to the values of ‘Generation Z’. And with the Government’s 2050 net zero target for carbon emissions, the industry will require more specialised skills amongst its workforce.

The Sentinel fleet is changing the face of offshore support vessel roles in the North Sea. The purpose-built ships are not only environmentally beneficial – Tier 4 compliant engines reduce emissions of particulate matter and noxious gases to near zero levels – but operationally efficient. It is considered to be one of the cleanest and greenest North Sea fleets with estimates that the vessels are around 60% more fuel efficient than some of the oldest ERRVs in the North Sea, and as much as 30% more efficient than ships that were built only five years ago.

Sentinel is committed to playing its part in addressing the risks of climate change, achieving zero emission operations by 2050. And exploring new technologies and alternative fuels plays a key role in this.

Which means that today’s new apprentices and young seafarers could play a key role in helping the maritime sector transition towards a greener future.

Opportunities for all

The experience of life at sea has also drastically changed. A maritime career can still offer an adventurous working life, a good salary, and the chance to travel, but it also caters for other employment expectations.

Flexible working, at-sea and onshore employment options, job progression, employment benefits, training, and professional and personal development opportunities are all on offer with a seafaring career. And the sector is addressing gender imbalances too, with the International Maritime Organisation reporting a 45% increase in the number of women entering the seafaring industry, compared to 2015.

With over one million jobs currently supported by the UK’s maritime industry, this makes a seafaring career a much more inclusive, accessible, and long-term proposition.


We are always seeking talented and passionate individuals to further strengthen our team.