A course to coax the jobless to sea is being swamped with applicants interested only in the $4,000 monthly allowance, a recruiting officer complained yesterday. Ricky Luk Pak-hung of the Seamen's Training Centre said that fewer than half of the 24 men chosen for the course had any interest in becoming seafarers. 'Many of the applicants have been unemployed, some for as long as a year. They only want the money,' Mr Luk said. 'It's not the right target group to train. We want people who want a career in this field.' The class, scheduled to begin tomorrow, is part of the Government's effort to deal with rising unemployment. It was intended to attract more local people into the maritime industry, which currently is short of local staff. Chow Tung-shan, executive director of the Employees Retraining Board which set up the pilot programme, defended it yesterday. He said it would meet the objective of giving the jobless a chance to learn new skills and earn money at the same time even if they decided not to work as seamen in the long run. 'After completing the course, they will have valuable seagoing experience that will help them when they apply for a variety of other sea-related jobs, such as working for ferry companies,' Mr Chow said. At the root of the in-house disagreement is the low starting salary that existing seafarers receive. A long-existing programme that trains recruits to be cadet officers - a higher grade than the trainees in the pilot scheme will receive - only pays graduates $6,000 and charges tuition fees of about $15,000. But the students in the pilot programme will receive $4,000 during the 14-week basic training and then $8,000 for six months on-the-job training. Shipowners are to pay the $6,000 basic salary, with the extra $2,000 being forked out by the Government. Mr Luk said the Government should instead increase the pay to $10,000 to attract a higher calibre of applicants.