Industry groups warn of “serious shortage” of seafarers by 2026

The growing demand for standards of training, certification, and watchkeeping (STCW) certified officers could mean further 89,510 officers required by 2026 to operate the world merchant fleet, a new report showed.

The new Seafarer Workforce Report launched by the International Chamber of Shipping and BIMCO estimates that 1.89 million seafarers currently serve the world merchant fleet, operating over 74,000 vessels.

According to the published data, there is also 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% 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.

In the tanker and offshore sectors, there is a reported shortage of management level deck officers, the report reveals.

“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,” Guy Platten, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping noted.

“The insight and data contributions from shipping companies, national maritime administrations, and maritime education and training institutions to the new report is invaluable in gaining a picture of what our industry must prepare for in the future of seafarer recruitment and retention,” BIMCO Secretary General & CEO, David Loosley, added.

However, on a more positive note, in the past five years, the industry has made good progress in reducing officer turnover rates from 8% to 6%, retaining qualified seafarers and increasing the number of years that they serve at sea.

The latest statistics also show that there is a positive trend in gender balance, with an estimated 24,059 women serving as seafarers, a percentage increase of 45.8% compared with the 2015 report.

Lats month, crewing agency Danica Crewing Services warned that the crew shortages are beginning to be seen due to COVID-19 travel restrictions and vaccination delays.

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