Certificated UK officers in demand as seafarer wages stagnate globally

11 June 2019

Wages for seafarers globally are rising slowly but could well increase quicker if salaries don’t keep pace with shore-based jobs, according to latest figures from global shipping consultancy Drewry.

Crew costs for shipping have risen moderately over the past 12 months but have been checked by an easing officer supply shortage, according to the latest Manning Annual Review and Forecast report published by global shipping consultancy Drewry. Global wages are forecast to rise at a similar pace over the next five years.

The briefing indicated crew costs were still well below inflation, due to the easing officer shortage – and that the fact there are more officers available to do the work, particularly ratings jobs.

'Manning costs rose for a second successive year in 2019 but the pace of growth remains moderate and well below the prevailing rate of price inflation,' says Drewry.

Meanwhile, the shortfall in available officer numbers relative to demand has declined close to equilibrium and is expected to reach a small surplus by 2024, but ratings are currently 'in surplus' and are expected to remain so.

'While there were some pockets of higher wage increases these were focused on the growing LNG sector, otherwise overall manning costs have remained subdued,' said Drewry’s senior manning analyst Rhett Harris. 'Certain ranks and experience levels continue to be in tighter supply than the manning market as a whole. These tend to be for experienced senior officers and in particular second engineers.'

The shortage of officer supply versus demand is narrowing, and a lower than anticipated fleet growth is at its core, said Drewery.

'However, it is finely balanced position with the supply side easily tipped if wages for sea service do not remain competitive compared to shore-based work,' added Mr Harris. 'The big social differences between working at sea and ashore are central to this consideration, as well as the fact that young people are now less willing to make compromises for work than previous generations.'

Nautilus head of organising Garry Elliott said there is currently a high demand for UK seafarers, in particular for certificated officers.

'However, with age demographics meaning many officers are reaching retirement age, it is imperative that young trainees continue to be supported and are allowed to come through the system to fulfil that demand for the future,' added Mr Elliott.

The Drewry figures also indicated costs for crewing dry and container vessels will likely rise, albeit at a slower pace, except in LNG and chemicals where there is competition for scarce officers certificated to crew specialist ships.