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THE recently released Seafarer Workforce Report from BIMCO and the International Chamber of Shipping warns that the industry must significantly increase training and recruitment levels if it is to avoid a serious shortage in the total supply of officers by 2026.

Given the growing demand for STCW=-certified officers, the report predicts that there will be a need for an additional 89,510 officers by 2026 to operate the world merchant fleet. The report estimates that 1.89 million seafarers currently serve the world merchant fleet, operating over 74,000 vessels around the globe.

The Seafarer Workforce Report – formerly the Manpower Report –­ is an important management tool for those tasked with developing crewing and training strategies, delivering the market intelligence that the industry needs to plan for the future.

The new report also highlights 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 Management Level, and in the tanker and offshore sectors there is a reported shortage of Management Level Deck Officers.

The good news is that 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. Indeed, compared with estimates from the 2015 report, the average age of officers serving at Management Level and Operational Level has increased.

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ICS Secretary General Guy Platten said the report warns of a shortfall of officers by 2026.

“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,” he said.

“This is especially important as we recover from the effects of the pandemic, and we will need to address the real concerns that we could see seafarers turning away from careers in shipping. We must analyse and respond to trends in seafarer retention, and continue regular monitoring of the global seafarer workforce, to ensure that the supply of STCW certified seafarers continues to keep pace with demand.”

BIMCO CEO and Secretary General David Loosley said the report is not only a useful tool but a necessary one when it comes to planning and assuring that the backbone of world trade is sufficient in numbers and skills.

“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,” he said.

The report also focuses on diversity within the seafarer workforce, analysing a range of demographic data, including age, nationality and gender.

The latest statistics show 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.

The percentage of female STCW certified seafarers is estimated to be 1.28% of the global seafarer workforce and it appears that there has been a significant rise in the number of female STCW certified ratings compared to STCW certified female officers, with female ratings found predominantly in the cruise ship and passenger ferry sectors. Female officer numbers are spread more evenly across the sectors.

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