Mariner Shortage

Of course there is a mariner shortage. The wages are low.

Airline employees are paid well because they have good unions.

Imagine the wages if the entire US fleet was union.


I kissed the airline dream goodbye after a hard winter flying mail through mountain passes in non radar equipped overloaded airplanes, and at least on one occasion picking up so much ice as to sink below MEA with full power and the stall warning blaring away. My hard earned ATP was useless up against military pilots with a couple of thousand hours of jet time flooding the market.
Commercial fishing in northern BC turned out to be a less a stressful way to earn a buck.

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Sour grapes. Maybe you should remember: Choose your Rate, Choose your Fate.

@john Where do you get your data for the statistic that the us maritime academies graduate more than enough 3rd mates to replace every one in the US fleet ever year? How many 3rd mates are there in the fleet? Does someone add up the license grads by deck/engine?

And the same union, instead of the system we have now with different unions underbidding each other to get contracts.


How many unlimited ships are in the US fleet?

There is a good wage shortage in the US, not a worker shortage. However specifically with licensed maritime officers (and airline pilots), its possible that there is an actual worker shortage because it takes so long for someone to get licenced. It takes more time to become a ship captain than a brain surgeon.

Also cramming more people through USMMA isn’t a great idea


Industry has been crying over predictions of upcoming mariner shortages for many years but they haven’t done anything to fix it (like pay more and have good internet onboard). They had plenty of warning to make this a career choice someone these days would consider going into and any current shortage is the owners’ fault.


Undergrad and med school take 8 years. Internship and residency take another 6 to 8 years. Do the math.

So you are saying you had the credentials, the license, the skill, but didn’t get the job. This is not a case of “supply vs demand”. You were part of the excess supply, yet somehow airline pilots still get killer wages.

Another data point to show the fallacy of “muh supply vs demand” in pilot pay. You had the goods to get the job, but didn’t get the job. There were plenty of qualified pilots (including you).

Stale data doesn’t help your case:

" FAA: Nearly 8k Newly Certified Pilots Have Been Produced In The Last Year
ALPA says there is no pilot shortage"

The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) is again publicly alleging there is no US pilot shortage, armed with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) data that shows 8,402 pilots getting their Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) – Multi-Engine Land (MEL) licenses in the past year. These renewed allegations by ALPA are in the context of efforts by some regional airlines to relax key US aviation safety regulations.

“ALPA will give no ground—and we will call out every instance of false rhetoric about a pilot shortage for what it is: an attempt to distract and deceive the flying public and lay the groundwork for weakening Congress’s clear intent when it strengthened First Officer qualification and training requirements in 2010. … While our interests with industry may align from time to time, when it comes to safety, our bottom line is always safety.”

ALPA also has FAA statistics alleging that there are one and a half certified airline pilots versus demand – well surpassing retirements.

There is no shortage of pilots, yet they make way more than the actual shortage of mariners. Again, why are we such losers?


Not close. I added them all up once using the actual data from MARAD. Total from all seven schools was 761 and that was both deck and engineering.


Here’s what I’ll say…there is very little incentive to stay at sea. I moved up the ladder pretty quickly and my wage was, by most standards, good.

However, when you break down that each day worked is a 12-hour day and what has amounted to a full month of unpaid training each year over the past few years…the actual pay per hour worked isn’t that great.

Further, I always felt compelled to kiss ass to make it in this industry, and have felt that I always had to say “yes”…come back early, do a longer hitch, etc…to maintain guaranteed employment.

Comparing my benefits with those arround me working on land, most with more “progressive” companies…I realized, that my benefits sucked, with the exception of my healthcare, which is quite good.

My shoreside friends, with similar levels of education, mostly had superior retirement plans, disability coverage and paternity leave.

Its that “choose your rate, choose your fate” mentality. That “you should be happy you have a job” mentality. There’s zero incentive to forge a career sailing, especially if you can spin your story and credentials to get a landside job.


The tunnel vision in this forum is absolutely amazing. In the last month I’ve traveled the breadth of the USA and Canada. I’ve spoken with Canadians, Brits, Aussies, New Zealanders, Swiss. Main topic of conversation: where did all the workers go in their countries. Why is it there are so few people around who know how to get anything done?

And yet people here talk about the maritime sector and aviation as if the same problems exist nowhere else.

If there’s no pilot shortage then it’s a hell of a statistical anomaly, because no one I’ve spoke to lately can see a doctor in less than two months, or a vet for their dog in less than three weeks. I can’t get parts for a cargo elevator air-shipped from Denmark in less than a month. There’s just fewer people around to make any professional system work.

I rode the breadth of Canada on a train. Several train crews. Not so many years ago the crews were mostly older men. Now mostly women less than 30 years old (no complaints from me :wink: ). Big demographic shift. But only partial crews, because not enough workers. I spoke with Passengers from several nations over five days, all saying they’ve seen the same thing back home, in all sectors of life. Inflation in each country. Everywhere, Help Wanted signs

looking at the issue as only a “ U. S. mariner shortage” is missing the point. Many countries had the same Baby Boom bulge in their demographic snake as the USA has. The snake is now passing the bulge. Fewer workers in these prosperous countries.

Maritime companies can increase wages, provide faster internet, and gold plate the toilet seats. So what? Every other industry will do the same, and the relative situation will remain the same.

I’ll leave you all now to argue how the maritime world and aviation are somehow insulated from the world economy, the laws of supply and demand, and simple demographics.

A sincere Happy thanksgiving all!


In all fairness, this is a maritime forum so, yeah, we view the situation through a maritime lens. Someone brought up airline pay and several of us have airline and aviation experience so it is not inappropriate to respond to that comparison. It’s not tunnel vision, it is focus on what you know, not what you think or believe.

I agree completely with the frustration about lack of skilled workers. It is all but impossible to get a competent technician who knows squat here in Florida. Most of the independent guys are handyman level and not even very good at that. The experts have started their own businesses and can’t find people they care to have their name associated with and those who might work out have left for states with lower cost of living and better pay.

The shortage is in people who can afford to work for cheap and still do a good job and a shortage of employers who value good workers. All the kids want nowadays is an MBA or a computer game development job with a seat in front of a monitor that pays more money than their father made actually building the foundations of a solid economy.

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I was going to say ~1,000 but then thought I was being too conservative. My main point is that the number 1,000 would be total not per school like his post seemed to be implying.

Yea, I’ve lost the jist of this thread. Do we really not have enough mariners in the US? Every other time I’ve seen the subject come up of how many licenses are pumped out by our seven maritime colleges, it was that we have way more mates and AEs than we need. Well- at least more mates. Engineers will always be useful. Even if working shoreside.

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I think the problem now is mostly people with experience. Not enough licenses stick around.

I fixed my post to clarify…I meant around 1000 in total, from all the maritime academies.

Which continues to a counterpoint to the admiral’s article that shoving more students through kings point won’t solve the shortage of senior officers. Nobody is going to require KP grads to sail long enough to get to 1AE/CM or Chief/Master. But if there is 400-500k waiting there for the Capt and Chief, the game changes.


Experience in general…even ratings. Prior to making a quality of life leap early this summer, my old line was desperate for ABs. They beat the bushes, hard, and managed to scrape up people (close) to when needed but my experience, FWIW, was 50% of the new hires were useless, I mean untrainable, brain dead useless. Not that we did not try and train.

I would give the new hires a one hour skiff operation lesson…banged the break wall, banged the tug, banged the mooring cells, no throttle control, no sense of steering/shifting/backing down. I tried, man I tried. Tie a bowline or clove hitch? Forget it. Splicing? Ditto. These are supposedly rated crew with zero knowledge nor inclination to learn. As far as serving as a helmsman? On course coming to and going by, that was it.

25% were at least trainable and had potential, the other 25% were at least fair or good. It was maddening. The uptick in GOM hiring pulled many away after a hitch or two, even the guys and gals that were decent and claimed to like the work and schedule. A fair bit of their departures likely had to do with the coming northern winter, too.

Anyhow, good officers are rare but I would claim experienced ratings (both deck and engine) are the same issue…knowing they can move and make a bit more or be closer to home is a strong incentive in this market. More pay would help, but that is an upward spiral that, while welcomed, is a symptom of inflationary pressure across the economy. At a given point a decent wage (earning a bit less now than before but a MUCH better schedule and better work environment) and quality of life trump another $50/day.

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