Last week’s IHS Markit Risk Forum took an in-depth look at an array of risks facing the shipping industry, covering everything from cyber-security to corruption.
One of the topics rightly under consideration was the crewing risk facing shipping companies, particularly the ticking time bomb that is the growing gap between supply and demand for officers. Figures published by BIMCO in 2016 show a current shortfall of 16,500 officers, with that number expected to grow rapidly in the coming years. And this is despite the slowdown in the growth of the global fleet.
This presents serious food for thought for ship owners, operators and managers. As things stand, they will face serious challenges including finding the officers they need, retaining high quality and experienced mariners, and upholding high quality standards onboard, despite the minimum requirements of the International Convention on Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW Convention) now being in place.
And yet… if I were a young, capable and ambitious seafarer, starting out on my career at sea, my response to this would likely be “Crisis? What crisis?” From my perspective, I’m entering a market where my skills will increasingly be in short supply, and where high quality shipping companies will be fighting it out to employ me.
For an industry crying out for good news to tell the wider world, this sounds like a pretty good one to shout about. Yes, the industry needs to take swift action to tackle the shortage of crew in order to nip this crisis in the bud, and the improvements being made in training programmes and training standards will go some way towards addressing this. But in the meantime, there is a positive message to be communicated loud and clear to young people considering a maritime career, as well as serving seafarers that we want to remain in the industry:
Your skills are in demand. The industry needs to train and recruit many thousands of new seafarers. There will be growing competition between operators for capable and experienced officers. You will have more and more choice when it comes to employers; particularly those who will value you, and who will offer greater career prospects and higher welfare standards.
The crewing shortage is a real and serious problem, but there’s also an opportunity here to make a renewed call to attract and retain the talent we need in the shipping industry; now is a great time to consider a career at sea.
By Simon Phillips, Senior Consultant