Constant innovation is the only way forward
Coming from a seafaring family, Capt Sankalp Shukla always knew that he would be a Ship’s Master one day. His father was a Chief Engineer, and thereafter joined Lloyd’s Register where he was a Principal Surveyor. Pursuing his dreams, Capt Shukla joined Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (India) Pvt Ltd (BSM) in 1995 as a Deck Cadet and sailed with them until 2007. He came ashore and did a brief stint with BSM’s Chennai office, where he decided to complete his studies. He completed his MSc in Shipping, Logistics, Supply Chain management with port policies from the University of Plymouth, UK. He then joined BSM again, worked at various roles, the most recent being Managing Director, Crew Service Centre India. On April 01st this year, he was appointed Chairman of Foreign Owners Representatives and Ship Managers Association (FOSMA).
In a candid electronic interaction with Marex Media, Capt Shukla expresses his views on brand FOSMA, shortfall of officers and concerns of FOSMA.
Congratulations Sir on taking over the reins of chairmanship of FOSMA. What are your feelings on accepting this vital position?
These are big shoes to fill with the past chairmen being stalwart industry figures such as Capt Passey, Capt Tandon and Dr Bhavnani. It is obviously a matter of extreme pride and I need to live up to the expectations of the board and the member companies.
To solve your problems, which of the two do you prefer: The ‘tried & tested path’ or ‘constant innovation’?
With the prevalent situation, the only way forward is constant innovation – since C19 is throwing up things that have never been dealt by us in the past. We never thought that we would charter flights, arrange taxis from one end of India to the other, or be carrying out vaccination drives. Tried and tested is comforting, whereas constant innovation is challenging; so challenging times need challenging solutions.
What does the brand ‘FOSMA’ represent?
Brand FOSMA represents the voice of the shipping community at large, locally and internationally. It represents a strong commitment towards training of seafarers at the highest level and resolving shipping industry related issues at the highest level.
What are the immediate concerns of FOSMA that you intend taking up in the short term, and those in the long term?
As we are committed to our member lines and seafarers, the first focus is on making sure that our seafarers are vaccinated at the earliest. Due to the current state of C19 in India and the ban of Indian-origin travellers to many countries, this has directly affected the employment of Indian seafarers on foreign ships. The only solution going ahead is to make sure that our seafarers are vaccinated and regain the lost employment slots. In the long term FOSMA is committed to increase the employment of Indian seafarers globally while also investing in quality training at our two FMIRO institutes, in New Delhi and Kolkata.
Latest reports predict highest officer shortfall by 2026, please share your thoughts?
The Drewry report forecasting a 5% deficit in manning supply is of concern. A big contributing factor is how our seafarers were treated as a forgotten workforce during the C19 pandemic and being stuck on ships for months together despite their tenures being completed. This in turn has tarnished the image of seafaring profession, with now seafarers bringing forward their retirement and youngsters not wanting to choose seafaring as a career. The only way to address this is to improve the image of this noble profession. Seafarers are frontline workers and it is because of them that the world economy and essential supplies are reaching citizens of all countries. This needs to be recognized and well publicised.
(Courtesy: Marex Media)