Future Ports Workforce

The modern port is a significantly different place to the port of history. It is increasingly shaped by forces such as globalisation of supply chains automation and digitisation. It is also shaped by external imperatives such as sustainability. We expect these trends to not only continue but to accelerate.

This changing business and organisational environment has important implications for the people working in the sector – both today and tomorrow. Whilst there are important advantages in the future port workplace, such as safety and greater opportunities to deploy new sources of talent, and whilst some (perhaps many) future roles are currently unknown, there are undoubtedly substantial challenges to be addressed. This is not only in terms of staffing the future state, but also crucially in making the transition in a timely, efficient but also responsible manner.

Achieving a better understanding of these dimensions, and the ways to address them is not a unique challenge to any one individual port operator (although the specifics of implementation inevitably will be).


The major port operators undertook a piece of  research to explore the three interlinked key dimensions of change, the relationships between them and how potential solutions for how they might be addressed. The overall ‘exam question’ was ‘what do the likely future ports workforce and ways of working look like and how can the sector transition from the position today’.

The project commenced in late 2020 and the University of Strathclyde Business School were  selected to undertake the desk research. Interviews occurred during 2021 and a small working Group made up Commissioners and HR Directors from the major ports group was formed.

Current situation

On Monday 28 March the report was launched at a dissemination webinar to share the report recommendations including:

  1. Clarify which body is leading on port skills
  2. More joint working within the ports and maritime sector to drive improvements in diversity
  3. Undertake a systematic review of how skills are used now, and anticipated changes in skills/job requirements in the future
  4. ‘Eating the elephant’ a mouthful at a time – focused best practice sharing and ‘sprints’
  5. Investigate priority near-term skills gaps/shortages, including learning lessons from other sectors
  6. Develop more proactive approaches to upskilling, reskilling, and retraining the current workforce
  7. Working together to inform a better skills policy and funding landscape
  8. Developing the HR capability across the sector.
The full report can be found via the link below.

In December 2022, it was endorsed that Port Skills and Safety would partner with the MSC and National Skills for Rail (NSAR) to commence a Skills Intelligence Model (SIM). Further information can be read here.

We will continue to update this page with progress on the SIM.