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July 16, 2002

BIMCO warns of looming officer shortage
BIMCO, the world's largest association of shipping companies, says that a present worldwide shortage of around 6,000 ships' officers may grow alarmingly. BIMCO says the shortfall may grow to 46,000, or 12% of the total work force, within 10 years, if recruitment stays at present levels.

The warning was given by BIMCO Vice President Bjarne Tvilde at a recent conference on Quality Shipping.

BIMCO believes that the trainee rate needs to be stepped up to a recommended level of 1 in 7 officers, or about 1.5 trainees per ship.

Tvilde noted that "while the past may have seen some fairly dramatic reductions in crew sizes per ship, we are reaching the end of this process." He went on to say, "so, while the replacement of old, labour intensive units will lead to some manpower economies, it is believed that the new ship of five or ten years hence will probably have a crew much the same size as that of a new ship today".

Referring to the 1990 BIMCO/ISF study on manpower, which has recently been updated, Tvilde said that shipping is continuing to see startling changes in nationalitiesemployed and hence in areas of recruitment.

"Individual companies and even countries where there has been a large scale switch of personnel from OECD countries to say, Philippine or Indian crew sources, illustrate this change most dramatically," said Tvilde, "but viewed over the whole industry, the change has been, we believe, much more evolutionary."

The themes of the Conference, which was organised by the Danish Maritime Authority and held in Copenhagen, Denmark, last week, dealt predominately with the issues of how to create and sustain a safety culture, the effectiveness of the International Safety Management (ISM) Code and Standards for Training Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) Convention, new technologies, and the question of the future supply of competent seafarers.

Tvilde recommended that, when establishing a safety culture, necessary standards be set and the policies and directions required be issued. Mr. He went on to describe a safety culture as one that "cares for human life and health; protects the environment, and preserves an asset".

There are three very good reasons to establish a safety culture, suggested Tvilde:

  • to create a safe and attractive working environment in order to attract and maintain a staff of well-trained, qualified, and motivated seafarers and shore staff.
  • to improve operational efficiency through a safer and more efficient operation and
  • to optimize earning potentials.

A safe and efficient operation, said Tvilde, "reduces injuries, accidents and damages while improving the company's reputation and decreasing the cost of off-hire and insurance".

To develop a safety culture,Tvilde recommended establishing a human resource management programme that goes beyond statutory requirements, ensures proper communication and information and, most importantly, actively involves the crew; establishing pro-active learning systems in order to actively monitor and learn from, for instance, near miss accidents; and breaking the cultural barrier by understanding how to benefit from cultural differences and by working together ashore and onboard. Further information on the latest edition of the BIMCO/ISF Manpower Study can be obtained by contacting Susan Agerskov at BIMCO

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