CHINESE seafarers have seen the strongest increase to their wages in recent years when compared with the main international seafaring countries, a report published by Drewry has found.

The global shipping consultancy published the findings in their Manning Annual Review and Forecast report for the 2024-25 financial year. It draws from global surveys covering around 40,000 officers serving on 3000 deepsea vessels

Drewry noted that China remains the second largest, and still growing, supply of seafarers to international shipping, accounting for 11% of the total sea-based workforce.

Although domestic flagged vessels are the biggest employer for Chinese seafarers, they are increasingly found in international employment on all vessel types.

Robust demand for skilled sea labour combined with a Chinese economy that is trending upwards has led to higher-than-usual pay increases for ratings where employers compete with other options at sea as well as onshore demand.

Although wage growth rates differ between ranks, it is especially visible when comparing dry cargo master wage increases between nationalities, with the growth rates for Chinese masters exceeding 5%

“Dry cargo” in this context refers to vessels primarily transporting dry bulk, such as grain, coal, and iron ore, amongst others.

The next closest average wage increase percentage by nationality for the dry bulk sector was Latvia with 3.6%, still solidly above the average of 2%.

Bulgaria and the Philippines were also above average, followed by Romania, India and Ukraine, which were below average. The Spain and the UK had wage increases of less than 1%.

The wage increase in some sectors is occurring amidst an apparent shortage of well qualified senior officers in some sectors of shipping.

Danica Crewing Specialists, a Danish crewing service which specialises in supply and management of ships crews, discussed the issue in 2023, believing a potential cause to be a shift away from shipping companies using Russian seafarers, who account for 5% of the world’s maritime workforce.

Danica suggested further reasoning for the shortage, including crew members simply choosing not to advance or transitioning to a shore role, as well as the exodus of seafarers to alternative employment during covid-19, when crew changes were prevented by pandemic restrictions.

In Danica’s latest annual seafarers’ survey (January 2024), which received feedback from over 6000 current crew members, more than 70% of crew managers believed their job to have become harder in the past year, even when compared to the covid era.