Who is the CEO of TSTS Group?
Marseda Shkodra, General Manager of TSTS Group, graduated by the Faculty of Economics in Genoa Italy, with a specialization for transport logistics says: - "Sometimes, I feel like an Italian transplanted in Albania with all the difficulties encountered in our country, I try not to embrace the backward informality and mentality that still exists in the maritime sector, when it comes to the role of women. It is this point of view that has led me to look at taboos like a challenge, to destroy them and to change somewhat of the Albanian reality ".
How did the idea arise and how did the maritime training activity begin?
When we started our business in 2010, it was almost unacceptable in the mentality of the time, that Albanian seamen, mostly male, were led or advised by a woman in their process of vocational training and certification of STCW (Standards of Training, Certification and Watch keeping) requested to be employed as crew aboard of vessels. The work done in those years had many difficulties, because first we had to implement a completely new training system based on the requirements of international conventions and European practices. Secondly, patience was required to convince our seafarers of the importance of this process, which then, as time shows up, paved the way for them to be hired on foreign flag vessels. Albania in those years was not admitted to the white list of the STCW Convention and as a result our sailors were not permitted to work on non-Albanian ships. Though it is worth pointing out that a large part of our seafarers of the time welcomed this process by supporting it. Especially those people who had studied at the Faculty of Engineering Navigation in Vlora and had years of experience in the ships, demanded better standards. But I remember that there were also those individuals who were skeptical and did not give them the proper interest and seriousness on these trainings, considering them simply as an additional certificate, without any special professional value. Our work was focused to change the opinion of these individuals and in implementing a professional maritime training process, where for the first time importance was given to the knowledge transfer and not just to the formality of the certificate.
This goal we set ourselves, which we believed one day would be fulfilled, gave us the courage to trust on this project, by investing in a sector such as the marine filed, where in Albania unfortunately many people likes to talk then to work and improve the sector. Our investment consisted in the construction of modern facilities that such a training center sought internationally. The Ship Simulators were installed for the first time in Albania, in order to prepare the candidates to use the electronic technology nowadays part of the navigational bridge in any vessel.
Italian professors, along with experienced Albanian masters, like Mr. Mynyr Bajraktari, and other colleagues, worked for almost 1 consecutive year for all the new courses that the center was implementing until the training package, required by the STCW Convention, was completed. In these years the center underwent periodic audits and international certifications, allowing it to practice this activity in a global marketplace. These achievements were nothing more than the homework for a country like Albania, where the signing of conventions and Maritime agreements were considered always as an accomplishment, but their implementation has often passed into oblivion. The struggle against indifference, which characterizes generally us as Albanians, is a comprehensive effort, requiring engagement by all actors who have a role in this sector. This spirit of positive and professional self-esteem, characterized by the enthusiasm of a young age, we've shared it to all of our colleagues. There is an expression “when everyone embraces the same goal, success is guaranteed”. This is the only reason in my judgment, that Albania today enjoys the status of a White List of STCW Convention, which allows our seafarers to be part of the international labor market on the ship.
Have the Albanian Maritime Administration helped to develop this process?
It is worth mentioning that our training center has never missed the support of the Maritime Administration, both in the past and also today, which through its experts understood and understand the difficulties and challenges of this sector. To persuade not only the seafarers of the importance of these trainings, but also to guide the younger generation to this sector, which was considered an apple forbidden for Albanians yesterday, is by no means easy.
Another broken taboo that makes us feel proud is the fact that in 2011 a group of 15 Albanian girls were hired for the first time ever in the hostess positions on the ferries. This was the moment when the mentality that marine work was only for men, little by little, began to crush. Today they count more than 100 females and not just in the mariner’s rank, but also as artist, or other professional figures, previously unimaginable, to be considered from the Albanian girls as possible job positions on board of vessels. The tendency to increase the number of women employed in the sea is increasing in the cruise industry sector is currently sensible also to Albanian youth as well.
Today, thanks to these efforts, Albanian girls do not hesitate to apply to different positions in ferry and cruise ships, sometimes getting better ratings and feedbacks than men. Here it should be clarified that a few Albanian girls have been dedicated to the Faculty of Naval Science and Engineering, which fortunately today operates not only in Vlora, but also at the University of Durres.
This specialization allows them to later pursue career in commercial vessels at the officers and captain positions. So I think we still have a lot of work to do, as we have just started moving into a male-dominated sector that once was taboo for us girls. Within the company TSTS Group, in our team, the girls are the most numerous. This fact has not been casual, but a selection of its leaders, to change a mentality that does not coincide with the time we live and to resemble as close as the colleagues of neighboring countries such as Italy, Greece, Montenegro and Croatia, explains Marseda Shkodra, currently in the position of CEO of the TSTS Group.
What does TSTS Group represent in the Albanian maritime sector?
The TSTS Group is known as the Marine Training and Employment Center. This company has been authorized by the Albanian Government, through the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Labor, Ministry of Interior, referred to the Licenses issued by the National Licensing Center. Since 2011, the TSTS Group has been operating with standards 9001: 2015 and in December 2018, was also equipped with a special certification for the implementation of the Convention on Maritime Labor, MLC 2006, recently ratified by our country.
Since the early years of its establishment, TSTS has been engaged in serious projects by important industrial groups, thanks to the professionalism of the domestic and foreign technical staff, who has been accountable to specific market demands, offering a complete and quality service in the Albanian market.
The TSTS Group today directly represents important names of the international maritime market such as COSTA Cruise, GNV, ESA Group, Adria Ferries, Corsica Ferries, Selection, etc. This trust of the above mentioned companies, has allowed us to hire more than 700 young seafarers, with salaries starting from $ 1,000 a month and this number is growing up according to our market potentiality. Maritime employment is considered as a sector where the workforce and the intellectual’s assets does not leave the country forever, but they return with qualitative professional skills, with a working experience recognized internationally, and last but not list, with a healthier family economy.
Only in this way I think we will turn back to our country the importance it deserves in the maritime sector, factorizing it in a market that has no boundaries. Time today requires that Albania take a leading role in the Balkan region, using the owns sea space according to its geographical position, against the impossibility of neighboring countries such as Kosovo, Macedonia and Serbia to have a home port or territorial sea. The role of the leader in a sector such as the maritime sector requires engagement of field experts, well-conceived strategies, comparative analysis of legislation and competition, inter-institutional cooperation and involvement of the private sector in decision-making affecting their interests. We cannot wait for what they will propose for the development of the sector, our foreign partners, or our neighbors when they themselves are affected that the maritime sector competition might touch their countries interest.
What are the innovations that this company has managed to develop in the training and employment process?
"We have proposed in Albania a new way of understanding the training for specialized marine figures, according to a model that enhances the human element and allows the development of a high level of technical and technological skills," states the General Director of the TSTS Group. Our goal is to qualify young people according to market demands. The opportunity for a contemporary and ongoing training will help them to carry out their duties with professional responsibility and put them in a favorable position to face international competition.
"Thanks to the trust of the companies we cooperate, referring to the advantages we offer: the young age of candidates, the foreign languages knowledge, the geographic position and the low cost of staffing, today we have managed to enter the international maritime employment market. Even though we will continue to work with the same enthusiasm, I am of the opinion that the future of the sector belongs to and is in the hands of young seamen who will look at this working prospective with interest for their professional career improvement".