The maritime container shipping sector is seeing a growing shortage of officers on the merchant ships that carry international cargo, even though fewer vessels are currently in service due to the global economic recession triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a report from U.K.-based shipping consultancy Drewry Shipping Consultants Ltd.
The report found that the trend is caused by the reduced attractiveness of a career at sea, as well as rising man-berth ratios which will inflate future manning costs, Drewry said in its latest “Manning Annual Review and Forecast” report.
Drewry found that the net supply of officers has been slowing in recent years and is not expected to keep pace with rising demand. And that shortfall of senior crew will grow even starker when countries start relaxing coronavirus restrictions and reopening markets that have been closed for months.
Drewry estimates that there is currently a global officer shortage equating to around 2% of overall demand, though presently that statistic is masked by the temporary idling of vessels due to the pandemic. The shortfall will re-emerge once the merchant fleet is fully reactivated, and represent a tightening of supply conditions compared to 2019, when the market was estimated to be in broad balance, the firm said.
“Seafaring is no longer the attractive occupation it once was as competition from shore-based roles intensifies and the lifestyle with its associated mental health challenges becomes less appealing,” Drewry’s senior manning analyst, Rhett Harris, said in a release. “The Covid-19 outbreak has dealt a further blow to the occupation’s reputation with high profile news stories of stranded crews and enforced longer tours of duty.”
Although the trend will be troubling to shipowners that are under pressure to trim costs in light of weak anticipated earnings, it could spell higher wages and improved working conditions for maritime officers.
“Further wage pressure will arise to maintain competitiveness with shore-based work, particularly following the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak which highlighted the health and lifestyle risks of a career at sea. As well as wage rates, the overall work-life balance dictated by tour lengths and leave rations are expected to become key considerations for employees and employers,” Harris said.
Officer shortage to widen and inflate manning costs: The current officer shortfall to crew the global merchant fleet is forecast to widen, despite the dampening effect of Covid-19.. Read more: https://t.co/a45cdtF1zb pic.twitter.com/KGYqO2mTD6— Drewry (@DrewryShipping) June 3, 2020