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The good moment for the maritime sector demands attention

By Raquel Guedes Sabb

The current Brazilian growth of the energy and oil and gas sectors has generated an exponential increase in the demand for national maritime labor. It is expected that market conditions will be created so that the necessary hiring is effectively carried out in the short and medium term, and that attention is paid to what is actually at stake: the recovery of the Brazilian maritime sector as well. 

Strongly impacted by the crisis in the oil and gas sector and the corruption scandals at Petrobras, the maritime sector has kept its doors closed to hiring since 2014. It is worth remembering that at the time of Lava Jato operation (Car Wash operation), which pointed out the misapplication in the oil company, the segment experienced, in the wake of the crisis, mass layoffs. Numerous contracts for the charter and services of Brazilian and foreign ships were terminated early by Petrobras, causing one of the most serious recessions, especially in maritime support navigation. 

The current revival of maritime support navigation and the use of a greater number of shuttle tankers – resulting from the growth of the oil and gas industry, the expansion of investments in gas thermoelectric projects, stimulating the use of floating storage and regasification units (FSRUs), and the government’s incentive for cabotage navigation, via BR do Mar, encouraging the arrival of more foreign ships in the country, has pressured the increase in the demand for maritime labor and, especially, for Brazilian crew. 

Also note the significant growth in wind power generation in the country and the prospect of advancing this energy matrix to offshore installations, starting in June, when the Federal government guidelines come into force. Large companies have already announced their interest in pursuing the generation of wind energy at sea, which will require the hiring of specialized vessels and, consequently, more crew. 

The expectation of all these events, which has already been heating up the sector, anticipates the need to pay attention to the availability of Brazilian crew members so as to meet the expected demand for maritime labor. Normative Resolution No. 06, dated of 2017 (RN 06), of the National Immigration Council (CNIg), primary objective of which is to protect the employment of Brazilian labor on foreign ships, whether maritime or not, requires that the crew of the vessels of foreign flags in operation in Brazil and employed in Cabotage and Maritime Support navigations and in FSRUs, for example, have a certain percentage of Brazilian professionals on board in proportion to the number of foreigners on board. The proportion of Brazilian professionals that these foreign vessels must have varies between one fifth, one third, half and up to two thirds, depending on the type of navigation and vessel and the length of time they remain in operation in the country. 

The good moment of the maritime sector and the requirements of RN 06 in relation to the employment of Brazilian professionals on board these foreign vessels operating in Brazil have, however, revealed a disturbing reality in relation to the low availability of Brazilian maritime labor, exposing a noticeable difficulty in the selection and hiring, for example, of Brazilian crew members, mainly Officers. 

The training of maritime professionals, balancing labor supply with market demand, needs to be prioritized with medium and long-term policies, in a continuous and effective way. The projected increase in the number of foreign vessels operating in Brazil, in the short and medium terms, makes it an issue even more worrying and urgent to tackle. 

There is no doubt about the good moment of the market and especially for the Brazilian maritime professionals, but the bottleneck that appears to be forming ahead regarding the availability of this maritime workforce exposes companies to a legal and regulatory risk, along with the natural difficulty they will already have to comply with concerning the normative provisions of RN 06. 

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