The Pool Of Ship Officers Is Running Dry

The BIMCO report referenced in the post is here:

Wages need to rise substantially. The World is running out of people who will work for slave wages away from home for nine months or more per year.

The mistreatment of seafarers during Covid sends a strong message to seek other careers.


If they raised pay now there would be time for it to attract new people to go into the field. Instead they’ll wait until there actually is a shortage then the bidding war will start and it will be too late to get new officers trained. I would sail on foreign flag ships if they paid US level wages…


Most of us would, raise wages, have better benefits.

It’s time like these when motivated, unlicensed hawspiper wannabes need to be on the ball. Companies are more likely to pay for training & be flexible with people’s schedules to get them into the schools. These windows of opportunities for non-accademy guys are few & far between nowadays.

If you are working with any American unlicensed who have the shine mention it to them.

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Someone, perhaps @ombugge, has the current ITF union pay scale for foreign mariners at their fingertips. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen it, but the wages are shockingly low.

As I recall, junior officer’s wages are something like $1000 per month with nine months on and three months off.

With eastbound westpac container rates around $5000 per container, a ship only needs to carry two containers per year to pay a junior officers annual wages.

Once upon a time, crew and fuel were the two biggest costs of operating a ship. I cannot believe that is true today. Crew costs on a large ship are trivial, less than $10 per container.


ILO wage scale for seafarers 2021 can be found here:

It should be noted that this is MINIMUM wages for ships with ITF agreement:

Although there are some companies practising 6-9 month contract periods and pay min. wages that does not mean that ALL “foreign ships” .are the same.

Not ALL non-US flag ships are FOC registered and not ALL FOC ships pay ITF Minimum wages. (Both ways)

Many Ship Management and Crewing Agent have permanent employment agreement with their crews, (especially Masters. Officers and key personnel)

Many employers practise even time, with full payment 12 mth./yr.
Medical insurance and pension schemes on par with EU standard are not uncommon, especially with EU employers.

Yes there are seafarers that gets illtreated by less than honest employers, but a little bit of research will keep you out of their craws.


True, but there really needs to be some reciprocity between unions, a full book member in the MFOW would lose pension time jumping to the MEBA

When I mentioned unlicensed crew taking this officer shortages crisis as an opportunity to crawl up the hawspipe I wasn’t even thinking about union mariners or MSC personnel. Any union that is half decent should already have a plan in place for free or discounted schools for members & MSC isn’t going to give anyone any extra time off with the predicament they placed themselves from what I hear.

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The reason for the shortage is quite obvious.

Even P&I Clubs are getting worried:

Nautilus, the Seafarer’s Union, has their take on the situation:

So, if “everybody” is worried (for different reasons maybe) why is nothing done to solve the underlying problem(s)??


In the 1950’s a ship carrying 10,000 tons of cargo needed 50 crew members. That’s 200 tons per crew member.
Now a large container ship might have 20 crew and carry 200,000 tons. That’s 10,000 tons per crew member.
Seems like decent wages might not be a crushing burden considering the revenue from that much cargo for those few crew.


This will be the case made for full autonomy…

Mark my words, when the tech catches up, this will be the battle cry of the Cato institutes of the world. It has worked so many other times, why would seafaring be any different?🤷


3 posts were split to a new topic: Break-Bulk cargo ships

That story of cant get workers is all about wages and conditions.
Shipping is the modern slave trade as its just on the edge of anybodies law which is just how the owners like it.
So low wages, no health plan, no pension, no sick pay and huge costs for regular training, possibly the highest for any profession?

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This is the key sentence from the linked article in the OP:

. “Without urgent action from governments the supply of seafarers will run dry.” said ICS secretary general Guy Platten

Shipping companies evidently would prefer if the taxpayers picked up the tab.

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What kind of company(ies) have you been working for??

Yes there are shipping companies and ship managers that balance at the edge of the law, (or slightly over) as there are in any other business.

But serious Owners and Managers does not entrust their assets to untrained “slave labourers” and risk their reputation and fortune to save a few $$$ now.

Greed, Shear holder pressure and the “Quarterly Earning” reporting may result in some decisions being made that can cause accidents.

Many of the large shipping companies are privately of family held entities that does not feel the last two pressures, though.

Since most Shipping companies (incl. US owned ones that operate in the international market) are using FOC registers, which Government would/should bail them out??

You’ve taken that quote out of context.

Shipping companies evidently prefer that governments take some action to alleviate seafarer shortages rather than relay upon the “Invisible hand” of the free market; that is raise wages and improve working conditions.

. Nothing was said about direct subsidies or bailouts.

To alleviate seafarer shortage, especially shortage of Officers, require Maritime Schooling facilities, which in most countries is dependent on Government action and funds.

Some of the major shipping companies and ship managers sponsor Maritime Academies and/or individual seafarers in countries that don’t have free education.

Many have also establish additional training institution in major crew supplying countries, like the Philippines, Ukraine etc, to ensure that their seafarers are well trained for the tasks they are expected to perform.

It’s like that joke about losing weight.

" I’d do anything, absolutely anything to lose weight - with two exceptions, diet and exercise".

Shipping companies are willing to do anything, with two exceptions, raise wages or improve working conditions.


I don’t know which shipping companies you have been working for but it is not necessarily true that ALL shipping compnanies are the same.
There are many who take good care of their crews and some that don’t.

Serious shipping company pay what they have to to keep good personnel on their ship and in shore based positions.

No shipping company like to pay more because of the nationality of any crewmember, unless the person(s) have special skills or abilities that they need. (Sometime they are forced to for business reasons, though)