Maritime industry will not suffer supply of seafarers in near future – Effedua

A recent report by the International Chamber of Shipping and BIMCO (See here ) that the maritime industry could be hit by a shortfall of seafarers in the next five years has induced several reactions.

The report highlighted that “The growing demand for standards of training, certification, and watch-keeping (STCW) certified officers could mean further 89,510 officers required by 2026 to operate the world merchant fleet.”

It went on to note that there is presently a shortfall of 26, 240 STCW-certified seafarers.

Speaking on the issue, Commodore Duja Effedua(Rtd.), Rector of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron Akwa Ibom,  said the world must take cognizance of how much the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted global business, leaving many industries on lean operations with a toll on import and export of goods.

He argued that contrary to that report, supply of seafarers has always outweighed the demand.

His words: “My position is that demand for seafarers cannot outweigh supply, particularly with how Covid19 has crippled the world economy.

“Except if there has been any increase in one trade or any indicators that trade would rise? For now, there is a new world order; it is not business as usual, it is now business unusual because many businesses have died and a few new ones emerged caused by the deaths of the other ones that the opportunity afforded.

“Now, the world is in recession, many businesses have not fully reopened, like hotels. Those who are in the import and export business are not finding it easy because of the rate of inflation locally. Spare parts for vessels have skyrocketed due to the exchange rates and it is not easy for the local shipowners to keep their vessels operational.”

Speaking further on the challenges of fleet maintenance for regular operations by local shipowners, Effedua said vessels must be trading for them to operate, a key determinant for the demand for seafarers.

He said: “Most shipowners have only a quarter of their fleet available for now because they cannot run it. The cost of diesel has gone high, the cost of maintaining the business has gone high and business is not there.

“Vessels cannot just be running empty because they must keep seafarers on board; there must be something in there for the investor who owns the ship. There must be goods to carry from one point to another for them to get paid. But Covid-19 has forced industries to fold up, making it difficult to get goods to carry.”

Effedua insisted that many seafarers have been without jobs, particularly locally, because there are many STCW-qualified seafarers compared to the availability of berthing spaces on board vessels.

However, the part of the report which says: “However, on a more positive note, in the past five years, the industry has made good progress in reducing officer turnover rates from 8% to 6%, retaining qualified seafarers and increasing the number of years that they serve at sea,” agrees with Effedua’s argument that the industry would always have supply of seafarers over the demand.

He had pointed out that the International Maritime Organisation(IMO) had advised on the number of seafarers being trained as against the available jobs for them, thus calling for a systematic balance for training institutions to produce what can be absorbed in the industry.

The brighter note according to Effedua, would be when there are some encouraging news that Covid19 has been taken care of and the world business has been restarted fully with excess goods to be moved to different parts of the world.

He added that it is only when ships have become overwhelmed with demands for moving goods that  shipowners  would  operate more vessels and be able to engage more seafarers.


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