Global Supply of Seafarers

At the IMO Maritime Safety Committee in May 2016, ICS and BIMCO launched the results of their latest five year Manpower Report on the global supply and demand for seafarers. This was a major project conducted with assistance from DM Consulting and Dalian Maritime University, overseen by a steering committee of industry representatives. 

According to the latest ICS and BIMCO Report, the global supply of seafarers in 2015 was estimated at 1,647,500 of which about 774,000 are officers and 873,500 are ratings. Encouragingly, the worldwide supply of officers is estimated to have increased considerably since 2010, with the supply of ratings increasing too.

Significantly, 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 these Chinese seafarers are available for service on foreign-owned ships may be limited, with the Philippines and Russia seen as equally important sources of officers, followed closely by Ukraine and India. 

The global demand for seafarers in 2015 is estimated at 1,545,000, with the industry estimated to need approximately 790,500 officers and 754,500 ratings. As a result of the substantial growth in the number of ships in the world fleet since 2010, the estimated demand for officers has increased significantly, although the demand for ratings has increased by only 1%. The figures therefore suggest a current global shortage of about 16,500 officers (2.1%) but a surplus of about 119,000 ratings (15.8%). 

The report suggests that the industry has made good progress in recent years with respect to increasing recruitment and training levels, and reducing officer wastage (i.e. retaining qualified officers and increasing the number of years which they serve at sea). But using projections for the growth of the world merchant fleet over the next ten years, the ICS and BIMCO Report predicts that, unless training levels increase significantly, the growth in demand for seafarers could generate a serious shortage in the total supply of officers. Without continuing efforts to promote careers at sea and improve levels of recruitment and retention, it cannot be guaranteed that there will be an abundant supply of qualified and competent seafarers in the future. 

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