Seafarer Salaries Up but Room for Improvement in Crew Welfare Says Danica


Published Nov 21, 2023 7:56 PM by The Maritime Executive

[By Danica]

Salaries are rising by at least 10% as the crew employment market tips in the favour of seafarers, reveals Danica Crewing Specialists as it announces the findings of its 2023 Seafarers’ Survey.

Across senior officer ranks salaries have increased some 10-15%, regardless of nationality, the Danica survey shows, compared to its 2021 results. Salary figures are particularly strong for the top four ranks on dry cargo vessels. 

The wage gap is narrowing between Filipino and Eastern European officers, while Indian senior officers on dry cargo vessels are receiving salaries 10% higher than their Eastern European counterparts.

Salary rise is the most common reason for seafarers switching shipping companies, the survey indicates. Some 35% of crew who changed employer recently did so for a higher salary, although 26% moved for a more suitable joining time. And 98% or respondents said they check vacancies while on home leave.

Announcing the 2023 survey results during the Crew Connect Global Conference in Manila, Philippines – where Danica recently opened its latest crewing office – Henrik Jensen, CEO of Danica Crewing Specialists, said: “These are all indications that the crew employment market has tipped to be in the seafarers’ favour. 

“We are witnessing a wage spiral like we saw leading up to the previous financial crisis. The root cause for these wage increases is the combination of a general shortage of very competent seafarers and a better financial situation for most vessel owners which is making employers more generous with remuneration,” he explained. “And, with a surplus of job offers, seafarers can be afford to be picky.”

Seafarer shortages are more evident in certain ranks. The Danica survey identified bosuns, cooks and fitters as being in high demand, with salaries up 10% as a result, while Ukrainian fitters have had pay increases of up to 30% due to a huge shortage.

Seafarers remain largely satisfied with their careers at sea with 80% saying they would recommend their employer to a friend, while 50% would recommend seafaring to their children. But the lure of a shore position is also strong with 70% of respondents saying they would be interested in working ashore.

In the face of such strong competition for crew, owners must ensure their seafarers are treated well. Yet the Danica survey revealed that as many as 36% of the respondents, drawn from the worldwide crewing marketplace, claimed their salary was not paid on time – a rise of 7% since 2021 – with 8% saying they did not receive their salary in full.

Worryingly, 23% of seafarers who responded to the Danica survey said they had experienced a shortage of food or drinking water during their recent voyages. In comparison to previous Danica surveys, this response is slowly but steadily increasing (up from 20% in 2020 and 22% in 2021).

Fortunately the number of seafarers not being relieved on time has fallen to pre-pandemic levels (24%) – but that’s still almost a quarter of crew who don’t get home on time.

Seafarer welfare is a crucial factor in crew retention and unfortunately the Danica survey reveals that one in 20 seafarers – roughly one on every ship – reports having been bullied, while 4% feel they have been discriminated against because of race and 1% report having experienced sexual harassment.

Access to mental health support is becoming more widespread and this is reflected in the Danica survey where more than half of respondents confirmed they have access to mental health support (51.69%). Of those who made use of this facility (20%), 70% said they found the service useful. This was the first time the Danica survey has included questions about seafarer mental well-being.

Danica’s Seafarers’ Survey 2023 highlights how crew training has evolved post-pandemic, with the number of seafarers receiving training via online methods almost doubling since the 2020 survey. Some 55% of respondents received training by computer based methods, and 60% of crew reported that training took place during their home periods.

Danica notes a trend for offering training in more subjects today. However, the majority of training available is on technical matters and in relation to compliance (such as MARPOL regs and Ballast Water Management). Only 0.4% of seafarers were trained in leadership – something Henrik Jensen is a vocal advocate of. He commented: “Training in rules results in seafarers who can comply. Training in leadership creates seafarers who can lead, manage and think ahead.”

Access to the internet onboard ships is now widespread, the survey demonstrates. Some 96% of crew reported they have access to the internet at sea, up 6% from 2021, with 70% advising this access was free to use – a rise of 15%. Only 1% of seafarers said they had sailed without access to email or the internet.

Headquartered in Hamburg, Danica is now present in all the major international seafaring hubs, including India and Manila, as well as Cyprus, Ukraine and Georgia. A large proportion of the 6,228 seafarers who responded to the survey, which was conducted between May and October 2023, were Ukrainian nationals. 

Responding to a specific question in the survey in relation to Ukraine, 94% of seafarers reported that they have fled Ukraine as a result of the war with Russia. Of these, 80% fled with their families. However, almost 75% said they intend to return to Ukraine when the war is over and it is safe to do so.

This is the fourth time Danica has conducted its Seafarers’ Survey (it didn’t undertake one in 2022). Seafarers responding to this year’s 45-question survey, which was open to all applicants as well as Danica employed crew, encompassed all age groups, ranks, and many nationalities. Almost half (45%) of respondents occupied senior ranks particularly Masters, Chief Officers and Chief Engineers. Crew worked on the majority of vessel types, including passenger ferries and the offshore sector, with 30% of respondents serving on bulk carriers. Most had at least four years’ seniority in their current rank and almost half of respondents usually served 3-5 month contracts, with 29% serving 5-7 months. Less than 10% of respondents served contracts under two months. The average age of respondents was between 30-55 years.

Mr Jensen commented: “Our survey revealed some interesting and surprising results which we hope will help our owners to enhance their marine crewing and HR strategies,” adding, “We don’t claim this survey is representative of the whole industry or scientifically accurate but we do believe it gives a good snapshot of the seafarers’ situation in 2023.”

To view the Danica Seafarers’ Survey 2023 please click here

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