Officer shortage to widen despite COVID-19 downturn

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Despite the effects of COVID-19 on the shipping industr, the current shortfall in officers to crew the world’s merchant fleet is set to widen, according to global shipping consultancy Drewry.

It estimates that the current shortage equates to around 2% of overall demand, though this is currently masked by the temporary idling of vessels due to the pandemic. The reduced attractiveness of a career at sea and rising man-berth ratios which will inflate future manning costs are said to be the cause.

However, once the merchant fleet is fully reactivated Drewry forecsasts this shortfall will re-emerge and represent a tightening of supply conditions compared to 2019 when the market was estimated to be in broad balance.

Looking ahead, despite moderating fleet growth, demand for officers is expected to accelerate due to a revision in anticipated employment practices to extend leave periods and reduce tours of duty, with the resultant impact on man-berth ratios. Meanwhile, net supply of officers has been slowing in recent years and is not expected to keep pace with rising demand, leading to a widening in the overall shortfall relative to merchant shipping’s requirements.

“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,” said Drewry’s Senior Manning Analyst Rhett Harris. “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.”