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New Study Warns of Global Merchant Sailor Shortage

The commercial shipping industry is on track to face a serious shortage of merchant sailors in five years if urgent action is not taken, according to the recent Seafarer Workforce Report from BIMCO and the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS).

A merchant sailor shortage would further strain the already overwhelmed global supply chain. Commercial vessels are already facing a shortfall of roughly 26,240 certified officers, indicating that demand for seafarers had outpaced supply in 2021, the report states.

"We are far beyond the safety net of workforce surplus that protects the world's supply of food, fuel and medicine," ICS secretary general, Guy Platten, told Reuters. "Combined with a surge in demand for labor, this is pushing global supply chains to breaking point."

The Delta variant for the coronavirus has hit hard in parts of Asia that supply most of the world's seafarers, e.g., the Philippines, Indonesia and India, he added.

The report predicts an additional 89,510 merchant sailors will be needed by 2026 to keep up with global trade demand. Platten suggested a significant increase in training, recruitment and COVID-19 vaccines for seafarers in order to curb the predicted shortage.

"To meet the future demand for seafarers, it is vital that the industry actively promotes careers at sea and enhances maritime education and training worldwide, with a focus on the diverse skills needed for a greener and more digitally connected industry," he said in the report. 

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Wednesday, 22 September 2021