Report Sounds Alarm On Future Officer Shortage

ship officer
Credit: Flickr/OneEighteen

Looking into a career at sea? Your help is need now more than ever.

That’s according to a new report by BIMCO and the International Chamber of Shipping, which predicts a potential shortage of almost 150,000 officers by 2025.

The latest five-year BIMCO/ICW Manpowere Report, launched Monday at the International Maritime Organization, forecasts that a serious shortage in the supply of seafarers within the next 10 years. In fact, there is a current shortfall of about 16,500 officers (about 2.1%), and a need for an additional 147,500 officers by 2025 to service the world merchant fleet. Even with a global supply of officers forecasted to increase steadily, there growth is predicted to be outpaced by increasing demand.

The report found that 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.

The report further suggests that in the past five years ,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). But the report indicates that, unless training levels are increased significantly, the growth in demand for seafarers could generate a serious shortage in the total supply of officers.

However, the report estimates there is a current surplus of about 119,000 ratings (15.8%), with demand only having increased by about 1% since 2010.

Interestingly, the report shows that 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.

“BIMCO and ICS have once again collaborated closely to produce valuable in-depth analysis of maritime manpower trends,” said BIMCO CEO, Angus Frew. “The industry can put this report to good use by ensuring we can continue to operate the world merchant fleet with sufficient numbers of qualified and competent seafarers.”

ICS Secretary General, Peter Hinchliffe commented: “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.”