At a shipping conference held recently in Singapore, Capt. Pradeep Chawla (Anglo-Eastern Ship Management Ltd.) presented a paper on the current status and future of shipping’s crew shortages, especially for the Indian seafarer. Apart from explaining why Chinese crews would not be much help to International shipowners (rapid growth of China’s own shipping industry). Capt. Chawla called on the industry to support the requirement of Cadets – at least 2 per ship – to be added to international manning regulations, worldwide.
This paper discusses the current worldwide shortage of officers and its effects. The supply situation today and in the future from various crew supply countries is discussed, with special emphasis on India as a future source. For the past 3 years, various individuals and organizations like BIMCO/ISF have been predicting about a serious shortage of officers. Shortage of over 10,000 seafarers were predicted in 2005 BIMCO/ISF manpower study.
The Asian nations that are becoming major crew supplying nations are India, Philippines and China, followed by Indonesia, and Myanmar. Vietnam has recently joined the ranks and Cambodia may join in the future. Bangladesh and Pakistan have some potential too but unfortunately are disadvantaged due to geo-political reasons since the tragic events of 9/11.
In the Eastern Europe region, Ukraine and Russia seem to be emerging as leaders. Croatia, Poland, Latvia, etc. seem to be losing interest in being crew suppliers as the opportunities for jobs grow in the wider European Union.
The present world-wide shortage will continue at least until end of 2008/2009, while the crew supplying nations keep increasing the number of trainees being inducted into the seafaring profession. The challenge to the industry, though, will be to continue recruiting seafarers continuously and not abandon training, as was done after the recession of 1980’s right up to mid nineties.
The crisis we have today is a result of the short-sighted approach in the past, where companies did not provide cadet berths on board. Some such companies still continue this approach even today. Two cadets per ship is the minimum intake required to sustain the supply of human resources in the maritime industry and perhaps, the only way to prevent future shortages is to make two cadets, a mandatory requirement in the manning scales for ships.