Shipping consultancy Drewry says the shipping industry should brace for a shortage of officers to crew the world’s commercial fleet in the coming years, with important implications for both hiring and rising future manning costs.
Diminishing attractiveness of a career at sea, coupled with rising man-berth ratios and continued fleet growth is likely to result in the highest shortfall of officers in over a decade by 2026.
While the current officer supply shortfall is estimated to be a “broadly manageable” 3% of the global pool, looking ahead to 2026 the supply/demand gap is expected to widen to a deficit of over 5%, the highest level since 2013.
Drewry says the principal reason for this is the slowdown in officer supply as the attractiveness of a career at sea is diminishing.
In the five years to 2016, the supply of seafarers available to crew the global merchant fleet grew at an average annual rate of 2.7%, according to Drewry estimates.
However, over the last five years this growth rate shrank to just 0.5% annually, the consultancy said.
“With the ongoing negative effects of life at sea brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, some seafarers may bring retirement plans forward, while others may look for work ashore,” said Drewry’s head of manning research Rhett Harris.
“It has been the case for a number of years that quality officers have been difficult to recruit and retain. This situation is expected to get worse as the growth in supply fails to keep pace with an expanding world fleet.”
“While ratings supply has slowed, availability is relatively elastic and wage levels will remain driven by collective bargaining arrangements,” says Harris.
“By contrast, officer remuneration is more market driven but the widening shortage of officers is expected to affect the quality more than the quantity available for service. Drewry therefore expects employers currently paying low-wages will be more affected by fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, as disgruntled seafarers are enticed to better paying owners or different roles ashore.”