Norwegian shipping company Bergesen plans to replace around 600 European staff members by the end of 2002 to create cost savings worth about $22.4 million a year, company officials said.
Bergesen Managing Director Svein Erik Amundsen said despite recent efforts by Norwegian politicians to encourage recruitment to the shipping industry, the company was struggling to find qualified Norwegian seafarers.
He said the company was in talks with unions to arrange wage packages to employees who would be forced to quit. Union officials said Bergesen workers had not yet accepted the company's proposal. They said the union had offered its members legal assistance in an effort to fight for improved wage packages.
About 3,800 seafarers currently work onboard Bergesen vessels. Around 1,050 are Norwegian and 200 are British, most of whom are officers.
Company officials said a large proportion of the staff cuts would happen through "natural resignations", while others would be encouraged to accept voluntary resignation packages.