Incentives Crucial to Cure Drain on European Manning Supply

Friday, April 04, 2008



Pay incentives and better onboard facilities are key requirements for solving shipping’s worsening manpower crisis, according to the chairman of ’s leading manning forum.

Organized by Lloyd’s List Events, the 11th European Manning & Training conference takes place in , on May 20-21 on the back of a prolonged shipping boom that now sees demand for seafarers far outstrip supply. 

Coupled with the developing world’s increase in better paid jobs ashore, the recruitment crunch is being felt even in major crew supply nations like , where maritime academies are struggling to fill just 1,000 places a year.     

Conference chairman Capt. Kurt Buchholz, managing director of V.Ships (), acknowledges there is a problem but asks: “Is there really a shortage?  Not if you are among those companies offering above-average pay and conditions.   

He points out that shipping remains an attractive career choice in countries like the because a captain’s salary can be 30 times greater than the national average income. 

There would be no shortage of seafarers if the same calculation applied in places like , he suggests.  Claiming that the ITF stance of ‘same pay for the same work’ completely neglects national differences in the cost of living, he argues:  “How realistic is it to pay the same rate worldwide?  Young people in have more attractive job opportunities ashore so they need an incentive to go to sea.”

Capt. Buchholz, a master for ten of his 25 years at sea, insists that money is not the only factor.  Home comforts were also crucial when asking people to live on board for four, six or even nine months. 

In one of the main conference sessions, Capt. Buchholz will examine realistic solutions to crew shortages with representatives from ship and crew management, manning agency and the IMEC employers’ association. 

They include Simon Frank, crewing and marine personnel director at EMS Ship Management, who foresees management companies getting closer to seafarers.  “In the past they didn’t even know we were employing them - they thought it was the owner – but we are entitled to have as close a relationship with them as anyone else,” he asserts. 

Meanwhile, with in-demand vessels idle because they cannot find crew, he says the crewing sector is dependant on some ships leaving the market, particularly as the massive newbuilding program was adding to bad expectations.  “It’s accepted that cadet programs and training must be upgraded but that will not be visible for at least five years, so now we are in the middle of a big problem,” he warns.

A new long-term education initiative to maintain as one of the main officer supply nations will feature in another major session devoted to industry promotion and training.    

The government-backed Maritime Partnership has been launched by academies, industry supporters and the Polish Maritime Chamber of Commerce, whose director Jerzy Uzieblo explains: “The world is open and the profession does not look so attractive as before.  I am sure can continue to offer good provision of manpower but it’s not so easy to find huge numbers, so we need to make our young people aware of the opportunities.”

Seatrans () general manager Piotr Masny, who is also president of the Association of Polish Maritime Agents & Marine Representatives, adds that the initiative was prompted when maritime academies reported a downturn in the quality and number of applicants. 

Job prospects for Polish seafarers and the effect of EU membership will be assessed in keynote opening addresses by Pawel Bodak, personnel director of Bernard Schulte Ship Management () and OSM Group chairman Jan Morten Eskilt.  

Other sessions offer discussion on the challenges arising from the 2006 Maritime Labour Convention and a case study of the potential for developing full ship management in .    

European Manning & Training also features a pre-conference workshop on competence and training regimes.  Led by onboard training specialist , this takes place on May 19 and compares various approaches to competence management including Intertanko’s Tanker Officer Training initiative.  The event concludes with a visit to the on May 22.

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