The Art of Dredging

Dredging and shipping

Manning shortage

The maritime industry struggles with a strategic long-term shortage of maritime officers.

There will be 7,000 + new vessels up for delivery between 2008 and 2012.

With each vessel containing  23 crew members on average, the total demand will be 147,000 crews until 2012 and there will be more by 2015.
The worldwide supply of seafarers in 2005 is estimated to be 466,000 officers and 721,000 ratings, according to estimates.
There was a shortage of about 10,000 officers, or two percent of the workforce as of 2005.
The shortage is expected to increase to 27,000 by 2015, or about six percent, according to the study commissioned by the International Shipping Federation and BIMCO, the world’s biggest private shipping organization.

Ratings, on the other hand, have an oversupply of about 20 percent, or between 135,000 to 167,000.

Some souces believe that the demand for officers will be higher than these numbers, as a result of the faster delivery of new vessels.
It takes around a year to construct a new vessel, but it would take four to eight years to produce a competent seafarer, he said.
This means, the industry has to work harder to respond to the needs.

Trainee officers and engineers need three to five years to qualify for the junior ranks and up to eight years to reach a senior level.

The Philippines supplies about 28 percent of the world’s fleet, currently the largest by nationality with about 250,000, for both ratings and officers combined.
Far second are crew from the Indian sub-continent (including Pakistani and Bangledsehi), with just over 100,000.
India, however, has started marketing its seafarers to international shipping firms.

India has the means to satisfy the numbers shortage and the Indian academic system provides a foundation for building high standards of skills, professionalism and leadership required of the modern seafarers. The level of Indian officers must not be underestimated.

But since the Philippines has the lead in the number of crews on board, and a promising future for those still in schools, international shipping firms are pushing the envelope to effect significant shifts on how the country and the government produces competent crew, in a short span of time.

Simply put, an owner or manager can recruit seafaring personnel from any STCW approved manning nation in the world. The practical application is quite different with a generally established manning pattern in place, especially for quality operated vessels opr specialty ships, where continuity of employment is important.

Salary levels for seagoing personnel will therefore remain under upward pressure and further escalation in officer wage costs is an almost certainty. In addition to rising wages, it must be expected that in order to retain staff, employers will be forced to look at employment patterns, incentives and training as a way of retaining personnel.

In the manning sector, the last 18 months have seen a period of extraordinary wage increases – the like of which has never been experienced before in the history of shipping.

Actually a negative side is the shift to higher gear of seagoing careers: in the U.K., Philipines and other countries already accelerated shemes for officers to obtain their complete set of STCW-certificates (operational and management level) are in place, and this does gets out of touch with normal rates of experience-building onboard. The end result is a STCW-certified, but less experienced crew.

The use of shipping simulators, intensified and accelerated training, more attention for coaching, training, higher  wages, adjusting safe manning requirements and education standards downwards: all these measures cannot hide the fact that shipping and ships will be in the utmost need for experienced crew in the years to come. Nor will they present a complete answer to the manning problem.

Sounds like trouble coming up.


Sept., 29th, 2008     Marc Van de Velde


Read more about global panic stations on manning shortage:



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