BIMCO/ICS report warns of potential officer shortage

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(LONDON) — The new Seafarer Workforce Report from BIMCO and the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) warns that the industry must significantly increase training and recruitment levels if it is to avoid a serious shortage in the supply of officers by 2026.

Given the growing demand for STCW-certified officers, the report predicts that there will be a need for an additional 89,510 officers by 2026 to operate the world merchant fleet. The report estimates that 1.89 million seafarers currently serve the world merchant fleet, operating over 74,000 vessels.

The Seafarer Workforce Report, formerly the Manpower Report, is a management tool for those tasked with developing crewing and training strategies, delivering market intelligence for planning.

The new report also highlights a current shortfall of 26,240 STCW-certified officers, indicating that demand for seafarers in 2021 has outpaced supply. Although there has been a 10.8 percent increase in the supply of officers since 2015, this shortfall could be due to a reported increase in officers needed on board vessels, with an average of 1.4 officers required per berth.

In addition, some officer categories are in especially short supply. There is a shortage of officers with technical experience especially at the management level, and in the tanker and offshore sectors there is a reported shortage of management-level deck officers.

In the past five years the industry has made good progress in reducing officer turnover rates from 8 percent to 6 percent, retaining qualified seafarers and increasing the number of years that they serve at sea. Compared with estimates from the 2015 report, the average age of officers serving at management level and operational level has increased.

“To meet the future demand for seafarers, it is vital that the industry actively promotes careers at sea and enhances maritime education and training worldwide, with a focus on the diverse skills needed for a greener and more digitally connected industry,” said Guy Platten, secretary-general of the International Chamber of Shipping. “This is especially important as we recover from the effects of the pandemic, and we will need to address the real concerns that we could see seafarers turning away from careers in shipping. We must analyze and respond to trends in seafarer retention, and continue regular monitoring of the global seafarer workforce, to ensure that the supply of STCW-certified seafarers continues to keep pace with demand.”

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The report also focuses on diversity within the seafarer workforce, analyzing a range of demographic data including age, nationality and gender. The latest statistics show that there is a positive trend in gender balance, with an estimated 24,059 women serving as seafarers, an increase of 45.8 percent compared with the 2015 report. The total of female STCW-certified seafarers is estimated to be 1.28 percent of the global seafarer workforce. It appears that there has been a significant rise in the number of female STCW-certified ratings compared to STCW-certified female officers, with female ratings found predominantly in the cruise ship and passenger ferry sectors. Female officer numbers are spread more evenly across the sectors.

The 2021 Seafarer Workforce Report delivers detailed information on the current supply and demand for seafarers for the world fleet, including country-specific data, details of the demographic composition of the supply of seafarers, and forward projections for the likely supply and demand situations over the next five years. It also identifies maritime training, recruitment and retention trends and their potential consequences. For more information visit Witherbys.

– International Chamber of Shipping

By Professional Mariner Staff