Marine industry: Seafood sector growth provides viable career options

Two-year-old Matthew McGowan, Belgooly, at the Family Fun Day inCork Harbour.The marine sector is worth more than €850m a year tothe economy.

BORD Iascaigh Mhara, Ireland’s Seafood Development Agency, has launched a social media campaign calling on young people to consider the sector as a viable career option.

Worth over €850 million to the economy annually with a target of €1.5 billion sales by 2025, the sector is moving from a traditional bulk led commodity industry to an innovative growth industry with an excellent reputation on key international markets, particularly Asia, with exports increasing to this important market by 24% last year to €42 million.

“In order for the Seafood Sector to realise its full potential, new entrants and skills are vital along with the necessary investment in technology and training,” said Michael Keating, interim CEO and director of Fisheries & Training Development.

“As the global demand for new innovative added value seafood products increases, the Irish Seafood Sector is changing and evolving to meet this consumer demand with a transition from a largely male dominated industry to a sector that also includes expertise on innovation and new product development.”

This new focus on technology, marketing and food science is attracting more women into the sector, with a younger skill base set to drive the industry in the years ahead. Eddie Power, CEO, Green Isle Foods set out a bold vision for the sector proposing to achieve €2 billion in total sector revenue by 2025 through the development of major seafood companies in Ireland, underpinned by a Strategic Irish Invest Fund. “From a personal perspective, the Irish seafood industry is not taking advantage of the current opportunity for expansion,” he said.

“With a fragmented industry made up of mostly small companies, we are not at the races in comparison to other food sectors. Now is the time for seafood leadership and I envisage two options that will develop the sector substantially by 2015; greater consolidation via Voluntary Sectoral Clusters or Sectoral Champions enabled by the relevant state agencies to expand and develop our export business.” Attracting the right skillsets and talent to the sector is paramount to the future of the industry, and, in addition to a range of supports in innovation and business development.

“As Irish seafood sales reach €520 million and global demand for quality seafood is expected to reach 32 million tonnes by 2030, we need to build scale and resources to meet this demand,” said Donal Buckley, BIM’s business development & innovation director.

“Currently we are only processing 20% of the available catch on our doorstep. We have the capacity to attract a greater volume of international landings into Ireland and in tandem we need to add value by developing innovative technology and marketing skills.”

BIM has a €1m investment package in place this year to assist industry, including 50% grant aid investment to support new product development and 40% investment per collective for common joint ventures and market development.

“Our Graduate Mentoring programme is delivering real results with a number of talented young professionals receiving placements in our seafood companies here today. We are confident this renewed focus on innovation and talent can build scale resulting in increased sales and employment for what is a vibrant and resourceful industry.”

[timgcap=Sineád O’Brien, Carrignavar, trying an experiment at the Explorers Education Programme stall]MarineIndustry270915SineadOBrienExplorersEducation_large.jpg[/timg]

In many ways, education and training are providing the foundations on which Ireland’s blue economy is being built, according to Conor Mowlds, head of the National Maritime College of Ireland. “Professionals working in this wide ranging sector, whether seagoing or shore-based, public or private sector, all have one thing very much in common, they are highly educated and continuously trained, and that can mean only one thing; opportunity.”

Ireland’s track record and presence in this space is already significant, he says. “As a country we’ve made prudent investments in educational and research infrastructure from which we can now reap benefits. Coupled with this, the government’s Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth initiative is pulling together, for the first time, the country’s public and private organisations to act together in a cohesive fashion.”

IN a complex global sector where there are many drivers of change and resultant prospects, Mr Mowlds highlights four key factors which have combined in recent years to provide Ireland an unrivalled opportunity; mandatory training requirements for mariners & offshore workers, a lack of maritime training infrastructure globally, the growth in offshore exploration and operations and nationalisation programmes in many of the developing, post-colonial countries.

“Maritime is arguably the first global industry, and that is reflected in the international legislative infrastructure in place to govern its operation. Uniform levels of basic education and training have long been agreed by the world’s maritime nations and from 2017 onwards continuous refresher training will be mandatory for all.

“Coupled with the lack of maritime training infrastructure globally, this presents Ireland with an opportunity to increase its domestic training business and for the enterprising among us to seek out and develop an overseas presence. To put this possible market into context, there are about 1.4 million seafarers globally, with refresher training for mariners being required every five years, a €1 billion market awaits those with the vision and expertise to capitalise on the industry’s obligatory requirements.”

The same applies for the offshore oil and gas industry, with its requirements for refresher training for personnel on rigs and platforms.

“There are close to a half a million workers offshore, and with the costs of rigorous, equipment-intensive training for this sector being so expensive, a €3bn global market awaits.”

Officer training, underpinned by robust degree programmes and Ireland’s reputation for quality educational standards, has put us ahead of the curve as evidenced by the increasing number of blue-chip ship operators opting to send their cadets and officers here.

“The added value to our blue economy comes not so much in the additional revenue earned from overseas students, but in the fact that those same companies choose to increase their employment of Irish mariners as a natural by-product of choosing Ireland,” he adds.

Many of the new sources of offshore oil and gas reserves around the world reside within the territories of developing countries.

“In common with Ireland, many if not all of these nations have emerged from colonial administration, only recently. The determination for complete independence from overseas expertise which accompanies new nationhood is something which both resonates with the Irish mind-set and gives us a common ground that few developed western countries can find. In many cases, Irish business has already made a positive impact, with both public and private sector organisations like the ESBI, RCSI or Tullow Oil paving the way for the country’s maritime businesses to follow.”

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