Marine industry faces officer shortage, broker warns
The shipping industry is facing a troubling shortage of officers, said a leading insurance broker.
“The dwindling pool of skilled officers in the marine industry could result in increasing claims and higher premiums in the long term,” said a recent statement from the insurance broker Aon.
“The shipping industry continues to boom and the number of vessels is increasing year on year,” the company observes. “Employee numbers are keeping pace” and there is a surplus of unlicensed seamen or “ratings.”
However, among the ranks of officers, Aon says “there is an estimated shortage of around 10,000 officers or about 2 percent of the total workforce. With a predicted shortfall of some 27,000 officers, or just fewer than 6 percent of the total workforce, by the year 2015, the problem could escalate to the point where shipping companies will have to face real operational difficulties”
With the global shipyard order book comprising 4,942 ships with 796 vessels under construction, “it is clear the industry is facing a major challenge.”
“Marine operators need to combat the skills shortfall through more effective recruitment and retention plans to ensure future officers are fully equipped to handle technological advances and new trading patterns, thus preventing claims as a result of human error,” Aon said.
Steve Allum, chairman of Aon Global Marine, said “unless shipowners, managers and charterers take further action, the outlook for the maritime industry is not good. With diluted experience and training among crews, the possibility of human error is significantly higher and will inevitably lead to increased incidents and accidents.”
He added that “technology alone cannot be expected to replace the loss of skilled crew in, for example, navigating congested shipping lanes. The inevitable consequence would be a higher cost of risk. Crew employment, training and retention policies may well become part of the key parameters which underwriters use to establish insurance premium for marine operators.”