• ITVI.USA
    14,959.950
    116.940
    0.8%
  • OTLT.USA
    2.933
    0.012
    0.4%
  • OTRI.USA
    19.350
    0.220
    1.2%
  • OTVI.USA
    14,926.910
    120.050
    0.8%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    2.910
    -0.050
    -1.7%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    3.790
    0.080
    2.2%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.460
    0.170
    13.2%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.740
    0.020
    0.5%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    2.270
    0.030
    1.3%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    4.150
    -0.010
    -0.2%
  • WAIT.USA
    131.000
    -2.000
    -1.5%
  • ITVI.USA
    14,959.950
    116.940
    0.8%
  • OTLT.USA
    2.933
    0.012
    0.4%
  • OTRI.USA
    19.350
    0.220
    1.2%
  • OTVI.USA
    14,926.910
    120.050
    0.8%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    2.910
    -0.050
    -1.7%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    3.790
    0.080
    2.2%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.460
    0.170
    13.2%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.740
    0.020
    0.5%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    2.270
    0.030
    1.3%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    4.150
    -0.010
    -0.2%
  • WAIT.USA
    131.000
    -2.000
    -1.5%
American ShipperShipping

Study sees shortage of ship officers worsening in coming decade

The growth in demand for seafarers could generate a serious shortage unless training levels are increased significantly, according to a report by the Baltic and International Maritime Council and International Chamber of Shipping.

   A report by the Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO) and International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) said that while there is a plentiful supply of unlicensed seafarers, there is a slight shortage of officers that could become worse in the coming decade.
   Today the BIMCO/ICS report said in 2015, there was demand for 754,000 “ratings” or unlicensed seafarers on all sorts of ships, but a supply of 873,500 such workers, about a 15.8 percent surplus.
   In contrast, there was demand for about 790,500 officers, and a supply of 774,000, a shortfall of about 16,500 officers, or about 2.1 percent.
   The current shortage is considered manageable and within the margin of error of the report, ICS senior advisor Stewart Inglis said. He explained the number of needed officers is based on the assumption that officers will spend about 60 percent of their time aboard a ship and 40 percent ashore, and that ratio can change.
   The report laid out several scenarios, but its basic forecast was that demand is expected to grow more quickly for officers than unlicensed crew in the next decade, with a possible shortage of 147,500 officers by 2025.
   However, the report also noted the industry has made good progress with increasing recruitment and training levels and reducing officer wastage (i.e. retaining qualified seafarers and increasing the number of years which they serve at sea). Unless training levels are increased significantly, the growth in demand for seafarers could generate a serious shortage in the total supply of officers.
   The ratio fully-qualified officers to trainees has dropped from about 10 to 1 in 2010 to 7.6 to 1 today and that the number of officers in 2015 is up 24 percent since 2010, Inglis said. 
   “If you look at those pure numbers, we should be just fine for 2025,” he said.
   BIMCO said some officer categories are in especially short supply, including engineer officers at management level and officers needed for specialized ships such as chemical, LNG and LPG carriers.
   However, the director of the ship management company Norbulk Shipping, Peter Karlsen, found the figures in the report “very worrying,” because “quality ship owners could in fact benefit from the lack of qualified officers.”
   He added “we could see something positive coming out of it. The shortage of skilled officers could actually lead to more competition between the operators.”
   “Experienced officers will have a greater choice of employers, which may give an advantage to quality ship managers and owners. Those who have built up a good reputation and offer a high standard of crew welfare will have a better chance of recruiting the experienced officers.”
   The report said China is thought to have overtaken the Philippines as the largest single source of seafarers qualified for international trade, although the Philippines is still the largest source of ratings.
    “However, data from international shipping companies suggests that the extent to which Chinese seafarers are available for international service may be more limited, with the Philippines and Russia seen as equally important sources of officers, followed closely by Ukraine and India,” the report said.
   “Without continuing efforts to promote careers at sea and improve levels of recruitment and retention, the report suggests it cannot be guaranteed that there will be an abundant supply of seafarers in the future,” ICS Secretary General said Peter Hinchliffe said.
   The Singapore-based ship management company, Thome, called on fellow ship managers to redouble their efforts in promoting shipping as an attractive career option for young people.
   “Shipping’s biggest asset is its seafarers and the industry needs to take seriously the findings of this report. Thome has always invested in its staff and is committed to the career advancement of its seafarers through its cadet program which has provided the company with a good base of junior officers and the development of these officers to senior ranks is one of the priorities of the company,” Thome Group President Claes Eek Thorstensen said.
  “Interestingly, the report suggests that China has overtaken the Philippines as the largest single source of seafarers,” Thorstensen added. “As long as the Philippines can produce competent officers who can compete with other nationalities then it will continue to remain an important recruitment hub.”

Chris Dupin

Chris Dupin has written about trade and transportation and other business subjects for a variety of publications before joining American Shipper and Freightwaves.