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Overcoming seafarer shortages: Human resource management and marketing strategies for a sustainable future

conference contribution
posted on 2023-05-23, 05:12 authored by Stephen CahoonStephen Cahoon, Haugstetter, H, Prashant BhaskarPrashant Bhaskar

In 2009 shipping became one of the casualties of the global financial crisis and in its wake were job losses at some of the largest shipping lines. Of particular concern is what impact has the economic slowdown had on the employment and training of seafarers. Only a year previously the major issue in shipping was the shortage of qualified seafarers and officers, culminating in the view that ships would soon be taken out of service due to insufficient manning levels. During 2009, the situation has changed, ships were scrapped or laid up, seafarers retrenched and training reduced until shipping companies can determine the extent of the global downturn.

This paper argues that despite the impact of the global financial crisis, if shipping is to be sustainable, it is necessary for the issue of the attraction and retention of qualified seafarers and officers to remain a prime focus during 2010 and beyond. The global economic markets and international trade will once again recover, and shipping lines that have retrenched quality seafarers will be left scrambling to recruit new seafarers at a time when a life at sea is seen as being unattractive, unsafe, and now, potentially insecure.

After examining the importance of seafarers to the sustainability of shipping, Section 3 discusses what has become ineffective recruitment of the last 20 to 30 years. With the low cost approach to seeking seafarers in non-traditional maritime countries, the industry is now left with concerns about the quality of some seafarers and their abilities to attain the senior officer levels. When combined with the ageing officer workforce and the continual pull to onshore positions, Section 4 focuses on the need for human resource management (HRM) strategies to retain seafarers in the industry as well as examining the notion of being a seafarer for life. Examples are discussed of strategies to retain these important human resources at sea, or at least within the broader maritime industry. This leads back to the issue of recruitment and thus Section 5 explores the reasons that a seafaring career in the short, medium to long term is not always attractive. Section 6 examines recruitment from a marketing perspective in relation to publicity and promotion. The section argues that the industry is already challenged with attracting sufficient numbers due it being invisible to the general public and the job market. The paper finishes with some conclusions and a call for a re-examination of the whole manpower subsystem in shipping.


Publication title

IAME 2010 Conference Proceedings


Dr Jan Hoffman




Australian Maritime College


International Association of Maritime Economists

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IAME: International Association of Maritime Economists Annual Conference

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Socio-economic Objectives

Human capital issues

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