In spite of the perceived alleviation of pressure on crew numbers, the industry’s major shipmanagement companies have claimed that the world is still suffering from a critical shortage and that action needs to be taken now to secure shipping’s future.
Roberto Giorgi, President of V.Ships and President of InterManager, emphasised how “cutting corners is not an option. We cannot afford not to spend money in order to increase the quality and expertise of crew onboard ships.”
Indicating that by 2012 there will be an estimated 50,000 shortage of officers, Mr Giorgi stressed that quality and competence is the major downfall among the world crew, and there is either quite an ageing demographic of senior officers, or there are captains and chief engineers who are too young and not of sufficient experience.
He said: “The biggest challenge is attracting a new generation. These guys need to come out of the shipping industry and understand what is needed to run a ship, but the new generation do not even know what shipping is.”
The concern is widely felt, as Andreas Droussiotis, CEO of Bernard Schulte Shipmanagement, revealed. “The problem of seafarer demand continues on account of the world fleet and new ships coming in that far outweigh the scraps and demolitions that are taking place.
“These ships need to be manned and the workforce is not there – the problem will persist and it puts us at risk from incidents and accidents. We need to spend a lot on training – start from scratch and start educating.
“We do not need another Exxon Valdez, which to me still has not been ticked off the list. Shipping is associated mainly with catastrophes and this needs to change,” he added. There is also a strong notion that the European Union needs to regain some seafaring strength after having been left behind for some years.
Mr Droussiotis continued: “People turned to the East for cheaper labour without realising that they were closing the doors on traditional seafaring nations, and now there is an impression that in 20 years Europe will have no shipyards, no shipping, no seafarers.
“The European Government is doing nothing to fund shipping, despite huge stimulus packages coming out of China as it does everything it can to boost its shipping activity. There should be more recruitment of European seafarers and the EU convention should pay for at or at least subsidise the training for seafarers to tackle this major manning problem,” he added.