Toilers of the sea

Hindustan Times | ByPranab Ghosh, New Delhi
Sep 22, 2011 11:56 AM IST

As long as man is inclined to trade, a marine logistician will never go out of business, says Pranab Ghosh

Ankur Bhardwaj, 21, chose marine logistics as his career not just because he wanted to connect with the rest of the world but also because he says this business will last as long as man trades. In his words, “As long as dollar or rupee transactions take place or export-import happens, this industry will stay lucrative than most of the others.”

An MBA in marketing and international business, Bharadwaj has gathered information about and remains updated on all the major destinations (read ports) in the world where he ships his clients’ goods. To this assistant manager-marketing and sales, Tiger Logistics India Pvt Ltd, “this profession is all about interactions, meeting corporate people and a life-time opportunity to learn about world trade as it is related to export-import.”

To Sudhir Vasudeva, director (offshore), ONGC, New Delhi, “Transportation of goods via water defines marine logistics. It is the cheapest mode of transport — and nothing else can match the volume of cargo transported by sea.”

The importance
The importance of marine logistics can be evaluated in the context of other forms of transportation for the movement of goods – via rail, road, air and pipeline.

“The choice of mode of transportation is a function of the costs involved and time factors,” says Subrata Nandi, head, logistics and supply chain management department, JK Business School, Gurgaon.

In the international context, there is, however, a limitation in terms of the use of surface transportation, as rail and road movement across international borders is subject to the geo-political environment. Air transportation, on the other hand, is costly. “In this given context, shipping or marine logistics offers the best option of moving goods at an economical cost,” says Nandi.

The scope of work
The scope of work in this field is varied. “It varies from managing ships to managing the ports, to marketing of many related services,” says SL Ganapathi of Logistics Plus India Pvt Ltd. According to Vasudeva, “the scope of work includes meticulous planning, operation and management of terminals, safe transportation of cargo from one point to another (completing port and customs formalities), loading/ unloading of cargo etc.”

With the number of Indian companies engaged in international business increasing, the need to export as also to import goods is on the rise. Add to this the entry of multinational companies, which has increased the demand for maritime services because some of these companies either import inputs for the production process or trade, or export goods sourced from India. “The services of marine logistics are employed by firms which deal in diverse products like steal, auto, petroleum, engineering goods, food grains, chemicals, etc,” says Nandi. And a marine logistician plays a crucial role in ensuring that the goods originating in one country reach another country within the committed time period. “Therefore we must acknowledge their contribution in the smooth conduct of international trade,” says Nandi.

The future prospects
The importance of the shipping industry in India can be gauged from the fact that the sea accounts for the bulk of the country’s international cargo movement.

“Maritime trade plays a very large role in India’s international freight movement — as much as 90 per cent,” says Ganapathi.

And the future looks bright. “With the gross registered tonnage of the shipping industry in India expected to reach 15 million by 2012, the industry is going to witness tremendous growth in the coming years,” says Nandi. The demand for marine personnel is increasing. “The growth in remuneration of personnel in the marine sector in the last four-five years by almost 200-300 per cent indicates the rising demand for marine personnel across the board,” says Vasudeva. “And India is well placed because of excellent education and training facilities it has.”

The manpower
There is, however, a shortage of readily employable skilled personnel in the field. There are more generalists than specialists in the market.

HT Image
HT Image

“Unfortunately, there is this perception that the requirement of manpower (at the entry level) can be filled by generalists who can be trained on the job,” says Ganapathi. “This has resulted in people being typecast in one particular segment of operation,” he adds. However, times are changing and organisations are moving away from evaluating individual elements of logistics to look at their overall supply chain. As a result, “a person with specialised training in this area has bright career prospects in the industry,” says Nandi.

What's it about?
Marine logistics involves overseeing the movement of goods by sea. In the last two decades, increased globalisation has witnessed a significant growth in the movement of goods across international borders. Despite the development in technology and introduction of faster modes of transportation, shipping or marine logistics still remains one of the mainstays of the international movement of goods. Today, marine logistics incorporates a wide range of operations related to ports/terminals and actual maritime transportation. Broadly, the operations relate to three categories involving a) movement through ships or any type of water vessels, b) port operations and c) the cargo operations within a port

Clock Work
10 am: Reach office, check mail. Go through the day’s appointments. Confirm those wherever necessary
11.30 am: Do office/ administrative work/ operational work for shipments
1 pm: Quick lunch
2 pm: Attend meetings with corporate clients, who are the shippers. These people give us business with the trust that an honest job of delivering their shipment
will be done at the right time and at the right place
4.30 pm: Go to the port to receive client’s cargo
9 pm: Go home, if lucky.

In marine logistics your day, however, never ends. Reme- mber you are a phone call away from your office/ port/ clients

The Payoff
Entry level: A candidate with a professional degree can get anywhere between Rs3.5 lakh to Rs5 lakh per annum.
Middle Level: After acquiring work experience of six to eight years s/he can get around Rs10 lakh to Rs12 lakh per annum
Senior level: With experience of 20 years in this trade, a person may get Rs45 lakh to Rs60 lakh per annum

Good knowledge of maritime vessels, marine engineering, wireless technology, hydrography etc
. Hands-on experience of working on ships
. Domain knowledge of a particular industry
. Knowledge of supply chain management essential at managerial level
. In-depth marine knowledge with adequate sailing experience

How do i get there?
. There are two streams in marine logistics: nautical science and engineering. Admission to maritime training institutes is through a test after Class XII (only for science students). For nautical science, do a three-year BSc programme and for marine engineering, a four-year BTech. After graduation, join as apprentice and appear in different levels of competency exams after requisite sailing experience.
. A graduate in any discipline may get into marine logistics after doing a related MBA programme from a reputable institute

Institutes & urls
. T.S. Chanakya, Navi Mumbai,
. Marine Engineering and Research Institute (MERI), Mumbai and Kolkata,
. National Maritime Academy, Chennai,
. National Ship Design & Research Centre, Visakhapatnam,
. T.S. Rahman, Navi Mumbai

Pros & Cons


Adventurous career


Excellent salaries


Get to see the world; global exposure


Excess travel. You could be away from your family for months together


You hardly get time for socialising


Cut-throat competition

Indians are in demand the world over

An industry expert talks about the highs and lows of the profession

Which industry/ businesses in India employ the services of marine logisticians?
The entire spectrum of the shipping sector employs people trained in marine logistics. Organisations working in third party logistics service need them. All heavy industries needing to transport either raw material or finished products in bulk over long distances using the sea route need them.

The mining industry needs them for export and import of products. The oil and gas industry needs them for their offshore oil exploration and production programme. The growth in trade due to globalisation has fuelled the need for marine logistics personnel.

All the marine logistics and cargo-forwarding operators use the services of marine professionals in marine logistics. Marine, like air, is a totally different field than on-shore logistics. Professional management is all about cutting down on the cost and faster and safer operations.

Today’s terminal managers operate in a demanding environment. They have to balance processes and demands to ensure that terminals operate safely. Efficiency and profit are all-important. The focus is on terminal operations, leadership, security, environmental management, productivity and particular operating environment of a terminal handling sea borne trade.

Are there adequate numbers of skilled personnel in the field of marine logistics in the country today?
India has been a good source of excellent skilled manpower. The recent growth in the industry has given rise to a lot of specialised training institutes coming up in the private sector though more needs to be done by the government.

India’s shipping industry is facing a shortage of trained marine officers due to wage difference with foreign companies. Mariners take up shore jobs after a career in sailing. Their salaries are very high. Moreover, services in foreign companies come with a tax-free salary. The difference in the salary between Indian and foreign companies is quite substantial.

Who are the leading employers — in India and globally?
There are many marine logistics companies in India as well as abroad. Indians are preferred globally for their sound educational and training background, superior professional skills and knowledge of English.

What are the challenges facing the profession? What have been the landmark developments, in the field of marine logistics?
Challenges being faced in the field of marine logistics:
. Inadequate port infrastructure.
. Shortage of skilled manpower.
. Quality of training.

With increasing level of automation and use of software, one has to keep oneself updated on modern technologies. Various simulator-based courses should be introduced in this regard. Though dynamic positioning (DP) vessels are being extensively used in the offshore field, we do not have a certified DP course in India. Similarly, there is a need for ship handling simulator courses for safe manoeuvering of vessels offshore.

Containerisation of cargo is a landmark development in the marine field. It is a faster and safer mode of transportation of cargo. Except for liquid, gas and bulk, all cargo is transported in containers now. Limited quantities of even liquid, gas and bulk are also transported in containers.

Sudhir Vasudeva, director(offshore), ONGC, New Delhi Interviewed by Pranab Ghosh

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