Should seafarers ditch their career at sea early? This demographic debate sparked heated discussion at the inaugural Maritime CEO Forum in Singapore today.

Mark Charman, CEO of Faststream Recruitment and a moderator at today’s event, pointed to a recent survey from his firm in which it was shown the average age these days that seafarers want to head ashore is just 31.

“Seafarers want to come ashore earlier,” Charman said.

P B Subbiah, director of human resources at Pacific Basin Shipping, believed that crew should come ashore earlier. “It is hard when you are in your mid- to late-40s coming ashore as you start at the bottom of the ladder. There is no way you will get the top job,” said Subbiah.

Kenny Rogers, head of Aurora Tankers, agreed with Subbiah, saying: “It is very difficult to come into lower management when you have been a captain of chief engineer before. It is better to come in earlier.”

Frank Coles, the head of maritime technology firm Transas, who himself came ashore aged 30 after 12 years at sea, said companies need to make greater interaction between ship and shore. He noted how one large European container player rotated masters through head office every three months.

Warwick Norman disagreed. The head of vetting platform RightShip said: “It would be disastrous if we were turning over our seagoing staff at 31. We need to make the conditions onboard better.”

The problem with that, Coles said, is that: “The desire to improve conditions is not there.”

Lars Modin from V. Ships warned that sending people ashore too early would create too many “incompetent people” both ashore and at sea.