BIMCO and ICS Predict Shortage of Ship Officers Upcoming


The Baltic and Maritime Council (BIMCO) and the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) have warned the global maritime industry to significantly increase training and recruitment levels, in order to avoid a serious shortage of maritime officers by 2026. BIMCO’s concerns are contained in its Seafarer Workforce Report.

Given the growing demand for maritime officers who are certified in Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW), the new report indicates a need for an additional estimated 89,510 officers by 2026 to operate the commercial maritime industry. The report showed a current shortage of 26,240 STCW-certified officers, indicating that demand for seafarers in 2021 has already outpaced supply. Some qualified officers are in especially short supply, particularly for positions with technical experience at management levels. However, turnover rates did drop from 8% to 6%, indicating qualified seafarers are serving at sea for longer periods of time.

The report also focused on diversity within the seafarer workforce, analyzing a range of demographic trends in the data. An estimated 24,059 women now are serving as seafarers, representing a percentage increase of 45.8% compared to 2015. The percentage of female STCW-certified seafarers is estimated to be 1.28% of the total global seafarer workforce.

Guy Platten, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping, said, “The Seafarer Workforce report warns of a shortfall in officers by 2026. 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. This is especially important as we recover from the effects of the pandemic, and we will need to address the real concerns that we could see seafarers turning away from careers in shipping. We must analyze and respond to trends in seafarer retention, and continue regular monitoring of the global seafarer workforce, to ensure that the supply of STCW-certified seafarers continues to keep pace with demand.”

BIMCO Secretary General & CEO, David Loosley, said, “The Seafarer Workforce Report is not only a useful tool but also a necessary one when it comes to planning for the future and assuring that the backbone of world trade is sufficient in numbers and skills. The insight and data contributions from shipping companies, national maritime administrations, and maritime education and training institutions to the new report is invaluable in gaining a picture of what our industry must prepare for in the future of seafarer recruitment and retention.”

We at the Herd Law Firm have been representing mariners, both officers and crew, for some 20 years. We recognize that seamen too often are exposed to hazards that land-lubbers rarely if ever see, and that there is a constant need to improve safety at sea. We encourage all shipowners, operators and trainers to expand not just STCW training, but all training that promotes safety aboard and ensures that seaman continue to be valued for the critical work they perform.

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