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Analysis of Students' Perceptions of Seafaring Career in China Based on Artificial Neural Network and Genetic Programming

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Research indicates that the worldwide shortage of qualified seafarers has been due to the rapidly increasing world merchant fleet on the one hand and the difficulty of attracting and retaining people in the industry on the other. The paper argues
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  This article was downloaded by: [University of Tasmania]On: 04 February 2014, At: 15:29Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK Maritime Policy & Management: Theflagship journal of internationalshipping and port research Publication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/tmpm20 Analysis of students’ perceptions of seafaring career in China based onartificial neural network and geneticprogramming Jiangang Fei a  & Jianjun Lu ba  Department of Maritime and Logistics Management, AustralianMaritime College, University of Tasmania, Launceston 7250,Australia b  College of Economics and Management, China AgriculturalUniversity, Beijing 100083, P.R. ChinaPublished online: 31 Jan 2014. To cite this article:  Jiangang Fei & Jianjun Lu , Maritime Policy & Management (2014): Analysis of students’ perceptions of seafaring career in China based on artificial neural network and geneticprogramming, Maritime Policy & Management: The flagship journal of international shipping andport research, DOI: 10.1080/03088839.2013.873545 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03088839.2013.873545 PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLETaylor & Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (the “Content”) contained in the publications on our platform. However, Taylor & Francis,our agents, and our licensors make no representations or warranties whatsoever as tothe accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinionsand views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors,and are not the views of or endorsed by Taylor & Francis. The accuracy of the Contentshould not be relied upon and should be independently verified with primary sourcesof information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for any losses, actions, claims,proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoever orhowsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to or arisingout of the use of the Content.  This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Anysubstantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing,systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   U  n   i  v  e  r  s   i   t  y  o   f   T  a  s  m  a  n   i  a   ]  a   t   1   5  :   2   9   0   4   F  e   b  r  u  a  r  y   2   0   1   4  Analysis of students ’  perceptions of seafaring careerin China based on arti 󿬁 cial neural network and geneticprogramming JIANGANG FEI † * and JIANJUN LU ‡† Department of Maritime and Logistics Management, Australian MaritimeCollege, University of Tasmania, Launceston 7250, Australia ‡ College of Economics and Management, China Agricultural University,Beijing 100083, P.R. China Research indicates that the worldwide shortage of quali 󿬁 ed seafarers has been due tothe rapidly increasing world merchant   󿬂 eet on the one hand and the dif  󿬁 culty of attracting and retaining people in the industry on the other. The paper argues that in thecontext of the Chinese shipping industry, the high  “ wastage ”  is one of the major contributors to the shortage. The aims of the research are to examine the motives of students studying nautical courses; identify the key factors affecting nautical studentsto choose seafaring career, and to predict students ’  career choice behavior.The research  󿬁 nds that (a) those who had a clear sense of their future career whenenrolled in the nautical studies tend to choose a seafaring career and remain active for alonger period of time; (b) high wage is the most important factor affecting students ’ decisions to choose seafaring as a career; (c) prolonged separation from family, jobopportunities ashore, and concern about children ’ s growth and education are amongthe top three factors for students not to choose a seafaring career or to quit it early; and(d) nautical students ’  career choice behaviors can be predicted through the use of arti 󿬁 cial neural network (ANN) and genetic programming (GP) with  󿬁 ve rules beinggenerated. This novel methodological approach, a combination of ANN and GP, has been proven to be effective in analyzing complex variables and in generating rules. 1. Introduction Global shortage of quali 󿬁 ed seafarers has been an ongoing issue (Obando-Rojas, Gardner,and Naim 1999; Dinwoodie 2000; Leggate 2004; Theotokas and Progoulaki 2007). Despite efforts to address the shortage issue (e.g. Thomas 2004; Wu, Lai, and Cheng 2006; Tsamourgelis 2009), the shortage problem still exists to a different extend in many maritimenations around the world. Research indicates that the worldwide shortage of quali 󿬁 edseafarers has been due to the rapidly increasing world merchant   󿬂 eet on the one hand andthe dif  󿬁 culty of attracting and retaining people in the industry on the other. World merchant  󿬂 eet increased from 28 754 vessels in 1996 to 45 662 in 2011, representing a total growth of 59%inthe15yearperiod(UNCTAD1997,2011).Basedonanetincreaseof16908vessels in this period and without considering retirement and wastage, a net input of 180 358of  󿬁 cers/engineers is required on a 9 month on and 3 month off arrangement. The input increases to 270 528 if on a 6 month on and 6 month off arrangement (or the time ashoreequals to the time on ships). 1 If retirement and wastage are taken into consideration, therequired net input will be much higher. Apart from the sheer numbers, there have been *To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: j.fei@amc.edu.au © 2014 Taylor & Francis  Maritime Policy & Management  , 2014http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03088839.2013.873545    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   U  n   i  v  e  r  s   i   t  y  o   f   T  a  s  m  a  n   i  a   ]  a   t   1   5  :   2   9   0   4   F  e   b  r  u  a  r  y   2   0   1   4  different concerns about the shortage across nations. For some nations, the major concern isthe low intake of new entrants (e.g. UK, Greece), while for others, the high wastage (e.g.China).This current research focuses on the situation in China for three reasons: (a) the largesize of the Chinese merchant   󿬂 eet and its rapid growth; (b) the phenomenal increase of seafarers in the last 10 years in the nation ’ s  󿬂 eet and China ’ s ambition to get more share inthe international labor market; and (c) the rapidly changing socioeconomic environment inChina that has been affecting people ’ s lifestyles and career choices in many signi 󿬁 cant ways. In a similar way as outlined above, a brief introduction of the situation in China between 1996 and 2011 is given here. The Chinese national merchant   󿬂 eet, including bothnational and open registries, increased from 1972 vessels in 1996 to 3651 vessels in 2011(UNCTAD 1997, 2011), representing a total growth of 85% in the 15 year period. Without  considering retirement and wastage, the net increase required to operate the extra vesselsis 17 910 of  󿬁 cers/engineers based on a 9 month on and 3 month off arrangement. Thisnumber becomes 26 864 on a 6 month on and 6 month off model. This means that anannual net input of 1200  –  1790 of  󿬁 cers/engineers is required to catch up the growingnumber of merchant vessels without considering retirement and wastage. On the supplyside, while accurate numbers are not readily available given t he fact that there are over 130 maritime education and training institutions in China, 2 the best estimate is that approximately 9000  –  12 000 new nautical graduates enter into the shipping industryevery year, based on the available information from China Maritime SafetyAdministration and enrolment information from these institutions. The number (9000  –  12 000) of new nautical graduates is over seven times more than the annual demand that isresulted from new vessels adding into the national  󿬂 eet. The number of retirement isestimated at 3000  –  4000 a year. 3 This leaves about half (4800  –  6210) of the new nauticalgraduates every year unaccounted for. One reasonable explanation is that apart from alarge number of retirements due to its very large national  󿬂 eet, there must have been highwastage during graduates ’  early seafaring careers.It is clear that the shortage problem in the Chinese shipping industry is mainly a retention problem which differs from that of many traditional maritime nations in Europe. There is noshortage of recruitment, given the very large population base in China. However, asDinwoodie (2000) argues, there is no guarantee that the students who have enrolled onmaritime studies courses will actually enter into the shipping industry nor will they takeseafaring as a lifelong career. To understand the root factors of seafarer shortage in China, thecurrent research endeavors to answer the following three questions: (a) Why did students choose nautical studies in the  󿬁 rst place?(b) What are the factors affecting nautical students ’  choice of seafaring career?(c) Can nautical students ’  career choice behaviors be predicted? 2. Literature review Literature on career choice frequently refers to  “ calling ” ,  “ a sense of purpose, that this isthe work one was meant to do ”  (Hall and Chandler  2005, 155) as one of the important factors affecting individual career choice behavior. In traditional maritime nations, seafar-ing was and still is a  “ calling ”  (Mack  2007) due to the long history and tradition of sailing, the pride and promise associated with it, and the lifestyle it represents (Mack 2  J. Fei and J. Lu    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   U  n   i  v  e  r  s   i   t  y  o   f   T  a  s  m  a  n   i  a   ]  a   t   1   5  :   2   9   0   4   F  e   b  r  u  a  r  y   2   0   1   4  2010). In newly emerging maritime nations, however, such a sense of calling is weaker and the choice of seafaring is more associated with socioeconomic factors. Research onseafaring career choice is limited and there is even less with a focus on nautical students. 4 One exception is the research done by Guo, Liang, and Ye (2006). It reveals that students ’ intrinsic desire for seafaring is the most important factor for them to enter nautical studieswhile wage has no direct in 󿬂 uence on their intention to work on board (Guo, Liang, andYe 2006). Another interesting  󿬁 nding is that objective variables such as students ’  learningscheme and socioeconomic status turned out to be weak predictors of nautical students ’ intention to enter seafaring (Guo, Liang, and Ye 2006). It is not clear though what itemswere included in  “ socioeconomic status ” . The  󿬁 nding that wage has no direct in 󿬂 uence onstudents ’  decision on seafaring career choice differs from some other research, for example, Tsamourgelis (2009), where the relative wage level (between nationals andnonnationals) affects seafarer recruitment. In the context of China, seafaring has beenconsidered as a high-earning occupation. However, the wage gap between seafaring andother shore-based occupations has been closing up over the last 10 years, especially in theeast coast of China. As a result, the enrolment of nautical students has been shifting fromthe east coast to the inner and western parts of China, from large cities to small cities andeven the countryside. A  󿬁 nal point from Guo, Liang, and Ye (2006) research is that factorssuch as wage are closely related to the overall socioeconomic development of a society.Thus, responses to the same question might be signi 󿬁 cantly different in other socio-economic contexts.As stated by Dinwoodie (2000), studying nautical courses is one thing and being aseafarer is another. In fact, research (Dirks 1998) indicates that there has been a highdropout rate during the maritime education and training process. In EU countries, thedropout rate ranges between 5% and 15% at the lower band and between 65% and 75%at the higher end with an average of 22  –  32% across all EU countries (Dirks 1998). Oncein the industry, new entrants stop going to sea just after a few voyages or a couple of years. It is observed that the highest wastage comes from the short-term and medium-term stayers (Obando-Rojas, Gardner, and Naim 1999), that is, from cadetship to about 5 years in the industry. The reasons for the high wastage are complex and various.However, research (e.g. Oldenburg et al. 2009; Sambracos and Tsiaparikou 2001; Thomas, Sampson, and Zhao 2003) indicates that family commitments, loneliness, poor living and working condition on ships, and opportunities ashore are among themost quoted reasons. Another often-quoted issue is job security (or insecurity).The employment rate of nautical graduates in China has been very high (above 95%),as compared with a national average of about 60% for graduates of other tertiary studies.Such a high employment record certainly is attractive to students when they choosenautical studies. However, in reality, seafaring job security is greatly affected by themacroeconomic environment. The seemingly iron bowl may not be secure when it comes to severe economic downturns, such as the one we are currently experiencing,or other events such as  “ 󿬂 agging out  ” , where jobs are lost (Tsamourgelis 2009; Mack 2007; Inoue 2011). Job security will inevitably affect the income certainty, which is considered as critically important for a family. While nautical students may have not encountered any of these in a real sense, the awareness of, and unpreparedness for, theupcoming  “ dif  󿬁 culties ”  associated with seafaring might impact students ’  decisions tochoose seafaring as a career. Such factors may become the reasons for the new entrantsto end their seafaring career prematurely.  Analysi s of students ’   perceptions of seafaring career in China  3    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   U  n   i  v  e  r  s   i   t  y  o   f   T  a  s  m  a  n   i  a   ]  a   t   1   5  :   2   9   0   4   F  e   b  r  u  a  r  y   2   0   1   4
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