Crew shortages are driving up sailors’ salaries, according to Danica Crewing Specialist CEO Henrik Jensen, who is urging ship operators to quickly offer jobs to sailors who apply with them or risk losing to a higher offering.
The Ukrainian conflict, sanctions against Russia and new outbreaks of Covid-19 in the Far East are all impacting global crew levels. Mr Jensen warns: “In addition to the fallout from the Ukraine situation, we have Russian sailors facing visa restrictions and travel limitations, and new coronavirus outbreaks in China which have prevented many Chinese crews to join the ships. Together, all of this is reducing global crew availability and causing an unprecedented recruitment and manning crisis.
Unsurprisingly, these shortages are driving up prices, says Jensen and Danica Crewing Specialists is currently offering benchmark information to help its customers keep up. He reports: “We are seeing pay increases at all ranks and ship types. For some ranks, these are indeed very large increases.
Favorable charter markets for many types of vessels have also encouraged some owners to be more generous in finding the best crews, says Jensen, and this is a contributing factor to current wage increases. Today, seafarers who are ready to go back to sea often have the opportunity to choose from several job offers.
Speed is key to ensuring a reliable crew, he advises. “We encourage our owners to make firm job offers quickly when we present them with a candidate they deem suitable. In this current market, if the candidate has to wait for interviews and decisions, even a few days, he may go to other employers.
“To retain your resigning sailors, it is more important than ever that they are fully informed of their next assignment in good time, at the latest when signing. This prevents them from feeling insecure in their position and from accepting another job during their holidays,” he recommends.
Jensen also warns that job market volatility is leading to an increase in fake resumes. “This crew shortage encourages some applicants to ‘enhance’ their CVs by claiming bogus maritime service at a higher rank – and even printing fake maritime registers and stamps in their seaman’s book, hoping they can fool a employer desperate for him to accept them without proper checks in order to simply cover a vacancy.
Mr Jensen says there is no nationality where this behavior is particularly risky – he has witnessed it at all levels. Danica uses a robust screening and verification process for each candidate, including verification of service at sea with previous employers, to protect against such fraud.
Danica specializes in catering to Eastern European seafarers, although it has a wider international pool to draw from through its global network of offices. With Ukraine and Russia together accounting for 15% of the world’s officer supply, the impact of the war in Ukraine was felt. However, shortages have so far been alleviated by seafarers’ willingness to stay on board for longer periods.
Mr Jensen said: “When the war broke out in February, around 60-70% of Ukrainian sailors were already on board. Some of these sailors have asked to be allowed to return home to support their families or to join the Ukrainian military forces. However, most of the crews on board have asked to extend their terms.
“Of course, Ukrainian sailors cannot stay on board indefinitely. The current trend is that, if their families fled Ukraine for a European country, the sailors wish to find their loved ones. However, currently it is common for seafarers to request relatively short vacations of one to two months as they wish to get back to sea quickly to obtain a salary and funds to enable their families to settle in the new country or to rebuild their damaged homes. in Ukraine,” he informs.
From the employer’s perspective, this shorter vacation period has been welcomed and has resulted in an overall increase in the number of annual “days at sea” per seafarer, thereby increasing crew resources. Although the summer season generally sees a reduction in the number of crews available, Mr Jensen predicts that “outside of Ukraine, a relatively higher number of seafarers than usual will be looking for employment by August, this which will alleviate the crew shortage somewhat, but not solve it”.
Sea News, May 25