Shipping Slowdown Seen Easing Officer Shortage

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June 27, 2016

Photo: Flickr/Samantha Beddoes

The slowing growth in the size of the world’s shipping fleet is likely to reduce the persistent shortage of officers over the coming years, according to the latest Manning report published by global shipping consultancy Drewry.

The global shipping fleet, encompassing all sectors except the non-cargo carrying ship types (such as tugs, passenger ships, and oil tankers and bulk carriers less than 10,000 dwt), is expected to rise by a mere 300 vessels through 2016-2020. As a result, the shortage in officer supply is forecast to reduce from 20,900 at the end of 2015 to 7,700 by the end of 2020, Drewry estimates.

Drewry’s forecast comes after 2015 proved itself to be a dreadful year for just every shipping sector, maybe with the exception of oil tankers. Weak demand, combined with falling commodity prices and oversupply of tonnage in most sectors led to rates collapsing to levels not seen since the global financial meltdown in 2008-2009.

“Growing concerns in the global economy and depressed freight earnings have forced owners to refrain from contracting new orders, while order cancellations and vessel demolitions have become a regular feature of the market,” Drewry said in a press release announcing the report.

Drewry said this slowdown has forced owners and operators to reduce costs, in turn keeping any increase in wage levels to a bare minimum. “While manning costs for 2016 are largely similar to those in 2015, in some sectors, such as LNG, there have been some uplifts in wage costs over the past year. However, the offshore sector, in particular, has witnessed wage reductions in light of falling oil prices and an uncertain economic outlook,” Drewry said.

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“With the growth in the size of the cargo carrying fleet tapering off, we expect the ongoing officer shortage to ease and for wage costs to increase modestly over the next five years”, commented Nikhil Jain, senior analyst at Drewry.

In June 2015, Drewry estimated that shipping would require an additional 42,500 officers by the end of 2019 to cope with the expected growth in the main cargo carrying fleet, but said the persistent shortage of officer crew was receding. Drewry estimated the officer supply at the time to be in the order of 615,000 with a nominal shortfall of approximately 15,000 officers, which Drewry said it expected to remain the case until 2019.

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