The latest five-year BIMCO/ICS Manpower Report forecasts a serious future shortage in the supply of seafarers. The report identifies:
• A current shortfall of about 16,500 officers (2.1%), but
• A need for an additional 147,500 officers by 2025 to service the world merchant fleet.
The global supply of officers is forecast to increase steadily, but this is predicted to be outpaced by increasing demand.
Some officer categories are in especially short supply, including engineer officers at management level and officers needed for specialised ships such as chemical, LNG and LPG carriers.
The report 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.
Significantly, 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 CEO, Angus Frew, said: “BIMCO and ICS have once again collaborated closely to produce valuable in-depth analysis of maritime manpower trends. 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.”
A summary of the key figures in the report can be downloaded free of charge from home pages of the BIMCO and ICS websites.