Navigation officer driving ship on the river.

The shortage of competent senior officers is becoming an increasing problem for many shipping companies, warns Danica Crewing Specialists, noting that the solution for ship operators is to diversify the crew profile.

In its July newsletter, Danica says that one of the causes of this recent situation is a switch by owners away from using Russian seafarers, who make up 5% of the global maritime workforce, for practical reasons such as difficulties in transits and obtaining visas or ethical reasons.

This has resulted in an upsurge in demand for Ukrainian seafarers as owners seek alternative crew sources, which is creating shortages among some ranks of qualified officers.

Fortunately there are many Ukrainian seafarers in the labour market, says Danica. When the war in Ukraine broke out, the majority of these seafarers were at sea and did not return to Ukraine. Some of them have settled in other countries, either temporarily or permanently, which means they remain available to the shipping industry.

Another reason for senior officer shortages is that more seafarers choose not to progress up the ranks, either because they do not seek this level of advancement or because they transfer to a shore-based role instead.

The shipping industry also still ‘pays the price’ of the exodus of seafarers during the pandemic when crew changes became impossible for a while and those on shore had to seek alternative employment to pay their bills. Some seafarers found they preferred life ashore and did not return to the industry while others switched to a more ‘part-time’ approach, returning to sea occasionally to boost their income.

As the crew shortage and the hunt for the best talent to crew vessels sharpens, Danica points out that the solution for ship operators is to further diversify their crew profile.

The shipping industry is very international and most people in the industry understand that competencies and behaviour do not relate to a certain passport but to the individual holding the passport.

To respond to this current situation, forward-thinking shipping companies’ recruitment and sourcing policies change to encompass a more international approach, notes Danica, adding that “now is the time for shipping companies to focus on securing the best talent for each vacancy and not be limited to sourcing from a few countries only.”