China Overtakes Philippines for Seafarers
The latest five-year BIMCO/ICS Manpower Report indicates 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.
Shortfall of Officers
The report forecasts a serious future shortage in the supply of seafarers. The report identifies a current shortfall of about 16,500 officers (2.1 percent), and the 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 specialized 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.
Surplus of Ratings
In contrast, the report estimates there is a current surplus of about 119,000 ratings (15.8 percent), with demand only having increased by about one percent since 2010.
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.”
InterManager has welcomed the joint BIMCO/ICS Manpower Report, but says it should act as a wake-up call for the industry to address the issue of the accelerating shortage of seafarers.
Speaking soon after the report was published, InterManager Secretary-General, Captain Kuba Szymanski said shipping should not sit on its laurels when it comes to the recruitment and retention of seafarers. “Our people are our assets and we need to develop a strategy whereby shipping is once again seen as a career of choice for tomorrow’s young talented people.
“There is no avoiding the fact that the global fleet is increasing and more manpower is needed. However, we are demanding more from current seafarers rather than recruiting even more cadets into the market. And these cadets need training berths on our ships if they are to fulfil their true potential. Attracting new seafarers and retaining them will test the industry, but we are taking action now with initiatives such as the single window, paperless shipping and project MARTHA to address this issue.”