Ship Officer Shortage Worsening, Drewry Says

COVID and war in Ukraine are listed as causes.

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" The global shipping industry’s severe shortage of ship officers has reached its worst on record and shows signs of abating …The report highlights a widening officer availability gap in 2023"

How can it get worse and abate at the same time?


@Mikey Looks like a missing “no” in the copy? The linked article within the linked article says:

Officer supply shortfall has reached a record high and is not expected to improve, leading to manning cost inflation,


Yawn…up the pay, “shortage” disappears. Funny how that works.


As one of my history profs said often in one of his seapower classes: “No money… No honey.”


More likely the steps to improve or mitigate the situation, at the margin, would be some combination of increased wages/benefits and improved work conditions.


Related article.

The global shortage of ship officers : an investigation of the complexity of retention issues among Australian seafarers

Separation from family and home was found to be one of the most important personal issues contributing to high turnover among seafarers. Other aspects of the four categories of factors causing turnover among ship officers are: limited communication with family, lack of opportunities for training and career progression, poor mentorship onboard and dissatisfaction with the employer.

Specifically, financial assistance to complete training schedules is regarded as a key aspect of the support that Australian shipping organisations may need to provide for seafarers. Additionally, this thesis demonstrates the need for a more definite and sustainable career path for seafarers.

If internet and private phone calls were prohibited from within “the office”, management would have the same recruiting and retention problems as the seagoing side.

As far as training, it appears that the cost in cash, workload, and lifestyle imposed by ever increasing regulation is carried on the back of the poor sailor. The regulators, the training schools, and the politicians who are bribed to create the reasons why seafaring is less and less attractive are never burdened with the consequences. They go home and sleep without interruption every night.


Even when training costs are covered by employer/union/etc, very rarely is the time for training covered…meaning the sailor doesn’t get paid to spend his valuable time on land in training.

I can’t think of many other professions that must attended required training and not get paid (because they all do it during working hours). The most similar profession, the airline pilot, gets paid for all their required recurrent training/testing.


This is certainly a factor.

On the whole, the industry has become less enjoyable to work in, in my humble opinion. The slow erosion of seamanship skills, the ever present threat of incarceration for a whoopsie, the never ending cavalcade of regulations and office bullshit. The new rules and requested reports keep coming, but the old rules and reports are never replaced. Just more and more and more.

At what point is it not completely overwhelming and simply not worth the money?


Even if we get paid for it we’re still having to spend more and more of our limited time off away from home in training. Being paid while in class makes me only slightly less annoyed at having to go to classes during my time off.


Especially when I have to squeeze in a small arms class between every 120-140 day hitch. Class should be every 2 years or have a 1 day resfresher instead of a full week.


I sat in on a (MEBA) union meeting this past week. It was mentioned the AMO has 90 open jobs at the moment. I can’t say that is true or not as I’m not an AMO member. That said the list of open board MEBA jobs on the screen outside the office is about a page covering all positions jobs deck & engine. That is far fewer than what I saw last fall. The soon to commence, Cadet Intern Program for those graduating academies and interested in joining the MEBA will be well attended. I suspect you might begin to see fewer open 3rd’s jobs in the future (at least with the MEBA).

Anyone starting their career should focus on 2 things, time on their license (to upgrade), and time in the union (to gain full membership). Just my 2 cents


It may be getting slightly tougher to ship out as a new 3rd compared to one year ago, but lets add a bit of perspective to this: 5-6 years ago the open board was nearly empty, often times with 1-2 jobs on it. I saw senior guys using old cards to take non-pension crap jobs. There was almost no chance for a new guy to get out, unless he lucked out at a empty hall. I remember watching new open board jobs being filled (and txt deleted from screen) before the typing was complete.

Now there is at least a chance for new blood to get a job. But even so, a newbie should take any job that becomes available, because what you said above in bold is very sage advice. Having that 2nd eng/mate license instantly doubles the amount of jobs available.

Another fact we forget is every year, hundreds of new 3rds are created. But how many move up to senior officer vs leave for retirement/shore jobs? At this rate, senior officer positions may be tougher to fill???

They’ve been difficult to fill for about the last 8 years, if not longer.

Most of these increasing regulatory requirements, reporting requirements and office bullshit falls upon their laps. It’s simply not worth it.

Wages have stagnated for far too long.


The law of supply and demand.

Raise wages significantly, pay for all travel and training, provide good food, good internet, and some comforts with reasonable rotations, hire enough good HR people, streamline HR processes, and the supply will increase to meet demand.

I think there is enough supply, but just barely enough. There is no longer much slack in the mariner supply chain.

Hiring mariners now is like buying a house in a hot market. One cannot dither. One must act quickly and decisively to close the deal. Or some competitor will.

Reducing regulations, and simplifying licensing and certifications would help tremendously.


Wages have not reflected this difficulty, at least at the unions. It seems like the next 3-5 years will bring a bigger shortage of competent senior officers.

There appears to be a major shakeup going on in some companies due to the massive amount of boomer assholes that got away with terrible/abusive/harassment (sexual and non-sexual harassment/bullying) behavior as long as the ship moved and the correct noon report showed up. Companies are finally feeling the financial pain that can come by keeping these scumbags employed.

It’s funny how the HR department on shore never noticed or acted on the fact that certain ships seem to have jr officers not complete their entire assignment and get off at first USA port…just to toss out an example.


Below comments list a number of issues that are well known (to mariners) that contribute to the lack of desire to ship out.

But specifically COVID and the demand for mandatory vax policy by both unions and corporate flunkies exacerbated the problem even more. Those that opted to not get the vax and were near retirement simply left.

But I know several people who want to ship but can’t/won’t due to the stupidity of mandated vax policy … still.

Ironically, in a desperate effort to fill open jobs and keep ships moving, some companies have ‘waived’ the vax rules. And the union pretends to be blissfully unaware of that.

Given the plethora of things that make humans not choose to spend their life at sea, you’d think the clowns Shoreside would figure all this out in short order, it’s not rocket science.

This is an international problem BTW, not unique to US Flag ships. Many a Captain has told me that some fleet managers are desperate to fill billets on all ships.

Gee, I wonder why?

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Yep when I came back to the commercial world for DP stuff I was amazed that shipping was still in the stone age.
In no way could I recommend anyone to go to sea, you are just cannon fodder and treated as such.
Sure when they need you huge money but, then good bye.
The employment terms and condition you dont get at sea that are law on the land is staggering.
To go to sea says pay should be huge BUT the owners can get a jingly or a bangla to do that so your toast.

Anyone smart can see that re shoring and automation will shrink the industry over the long term so dont start.


Just… Ouch…