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Shortage of quality officers remains a major concern for shipowners

Shortage of quality officers remains a major concern for shipowners
A short of quality crew remains a major concern for shipowners and operators according to a senior executive from Maersk Tankers.

“Shipowners and operators are constantly looking for quality crew,” Santosh Khosla, global head of manning offices for Maersk Tankers told the Maritime Manpower Singapore conference. “The to options to recruit quality crew remain limited.”

A poll of the audience in the following panel session show that the majority felt the quality of seafarers had declined. Asked the question, “Quality has deteriorated over the last 20 years. This is mainly due to shorter sea time requirement for COC and a larger assortment of skills required from seafarers?” the vast majority of over 250 executives that answered said they either “agreed” or “strongly agreed”.

In the case of just tanker fleet Khosla said there was an estimated shortage of 16,000 officers. Ken Yeow, director of Wavelink Maritime Institute, speaking in the afternoon session noted that there was a acute shortage of engineers.

“For any shipping company building a pool of high quality seafarers is a challenge,” commented Khosla.

Even once a pool of quality crew is built up retention remains an issue. Khosla noted that officers were retiring early to take up shore-based positions. A pre-conference survey by Wavelink Maritime Institute found that seafarer could secure an alternative shore-based job in just three months. “It is so easy to get a shore job, and a shore job is becoming more attractive.

Officers, in particular second and chief officers, were also being poached by other companies with the lure of higher salaries or faster promotion opportunities.

To try and counter this trend Maersk believes in offer skills development offering a long-term career path to its officers.

“We believe the current situation is poor but not beyond our means to resolve,” Khosla said, adding that it needed to be a tripartite effort from industry, governments and unions.

Yeow made a similar conclusion saying: “If we are to find any solution to this it has to be a tripartite solution, and we have to act very quickly.”