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Merchant Sailor Shortage Possible in Five Years


File Photo: Shipping containers are unloaded from a ship at a container terminal at the Port of Long Beach-Port of Los Angeles complex, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Los Angeles.

A shipping industry report released Wednesday warns there could be a shortage of merchant sailors to crew commercial ships in five years if action is not taken to boost numbers, posing a potential threat to global supply chains.

The 2021 Seafarer Workforce Report published by the Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO) and the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) trade groups, calls for significantly increased training and recruitment to avoid a serious shortage in the supply of officers by 2026.

The report says the shipping industry already is struggling with crewing shortfalls because of the coronavirus pandemic, a situation that will exacerbate expected labor supply problems over the next few years.

The industry researchers said earlier this year there is a shortfall of 26,240 certified officers, indicating that demand for seafarers in 2021 has outpaced supply.

The report predicts there will be a need for an additional 89,510 officers by 2026 to operate the world merchant fleet. The groups say currently there are about 1.89 million seafarers serving the world merchant fleet, operating more than 74,000 vessels worldwide.

In a statement, ICS Secretary General Guy Platten emphasized the industry needs to do all it can to recruit and train new sailors and retain current staff. “We will need to address the real concerns that we could see seafarers turning away from careers in shipping.”

The Seafarer Workforce Report, last published in 2015, provides detailed information on the current supply and demand for seafarers for the world fleet, details of the demographic composition of the world’s seafarers, and forward projections for the likely supply and demand situations over the next five years.

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