Maritime Employers Will Soon be in Need of More than Just a Few Good Men

Following a significant drop in activity after the Great Recession, the maritime industry is bouncing back rapidly.

In 2012, seaborne trade worldwide reached nine billion metric tons for the first time in history, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, and that increase in trade has led to significant job growth.

Crowley Maritime, based in Jacksonville, Florida, for example, is looking to hire several hundred new employees over the next few years. The company, however, will have some competition as it looks to build its workforce. According to a 2010 report from the IMO, the industry could actually be short 27,000 to 46,000 officers for tankers, cargo, and container ships within the next several years. One of the primary reasons? The energy boom.

Says Bart Rogers, Assistant Vice President of the Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training, “When the oil industry is doing well, you end up with shortages in the maritime industry.”

On top of the added demand for vessels to move more crude oil and LNG over water, the industry also must deal with quickly aging workforce. Replacing these retiring officers has become increasingly difficult, as new regulations mandated by the Manila Convention means that every maritime worker needs more days at sea and more training. Subsequently, it takes longer to move up the employment ladder from a deckhand up to captain.

Says Rogers, “You can’t just go and work on a ship or a boat anymore. You have to be qualified and you have to be trained.”

One resource for acquiring new employees is partnering with the maritime academies. Crowley, for instance, works closely with the United States’ six academies, as well as the maritime unions that recruit and train prospective hires.

Says Crowley CEO, Thomas Crowley, of the unions, “They are our partners. They provide training, work on regulations in a number of different parts of the industry. It’s an important part of how we operate.”

The maritime industry has a lot to offer new employees in terms of lifestyle and compensation. Captains actually bring in six-figure salaries, and even new recruits can be earning up to $50,000 per year within two years of graduation. Add to that working a schedule that gives employees weeks off at a time, and you have an attractive offering that employers will hopefully leverage to fill the upcoming employment gaps.

Retirement of the aging workforce is a topic of conversation in industries across the country. And while it poses significant challenges in the form of skilled worker shortage, it also presents enormous opportunity to those looking to get their start in the maritime industry.