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Wages rising for seafarers amid market evolution


Salaries are rising by at least 10% as the crew employment market tips in the favour of seafarers, reveals Hamburg-based Danica Crewing Specialists as it announces the findings of its 2023 Seafarers’ Survey.

Across senior officer ranks salaries have increased some 10-15%, regardless of nationality, the Danica survey shows, compared to its 2021 results. Salary figures are particularly strong for the top four ranks on dry cargo vessels.

The wage gap is narrowing between Filipino and Eastern European officers, while Indian senior officers on dry cargo vessels are receiving salaries 10% higher than their Eastern European counterparts.

Salary rise is the most common reason for seafarers switching shipping companies, the survey indicates. Some 35% of crew who changed employer recently did so for a higher salary, although 26% moved for a more suitable joining time. And 98% or respondents said they check vacancies while on home leave.

Announcing the 2023 survey results during the Crew Connect Global Conference in Manila, Philippines – where Danica recently opened its latest crewing office – Henrik Jensen, CEO of Danica Crewing Specialists, said: “These are all indications that the crew employment market has tipped to be in the seafarers’ favour.

“We are witnessing a wage spiral like we saw leading up to the previous financial crisis. The root cause for these wage increases is the combination of a general shortage of very competent seafarers and a better financial situation for most vessel owners which is making employers more generous with remuneration,” he explained. “And, with a surplus of job offers, seafarers can be afford to be picky.”

Seafarer shortages are more evident in certain ranks. The Danica survey identified, cooks and fitters as being in high demand, with salaries up 10% as a result, while Ukrainian fitters have had pay increases of up to 30% due to a huge shortage.

Seafarers remain largely satisfied with their careers at sea with 80% saying they would recommend their employer to a friend, while 50% would recommend seafaring to their children. But the lure of a shore position is also strong with 70% of respondents saying they would be interested in working ashore.

In the face of such strong competition for crew, owners must ensure their seafarers are treated well. Yet the Danica survey revealed that as many as 36% of the respondents, drawn from the worldwide crewing marketplace, claimed their salary was not paid on time – a rise of 7% since 2021 – with 8% saying they did not receive their salary in full.

Worryingly, 23% of seafarers who responded to the Danica survey said they had experienced a shortage of food or drinking water during their recent voyages. In comparison to previous Danica surveys, this response is slowly but steadily increasing (up from 20% in 2020 and 22% in 2021).

Fortunately, the number of seafarers not being relieved on time has fallen to pre-pandemic levels (24%) – but that’s still almost a quarter of crew who don’t get home on time.

Seafarer welfare is a crucial factor in crew retention and unfortunately the Danica survey reveals that one in 20 seafarers – roughly one on every ship – reports having been bullied, while 4% feel they have been discriminated against because of race and 1% report having experienced sexual harassment.

Access to mental health support is becoming more widespread and this is reflected in the Danica survey where more than half of respondents confirmed they have access to mental health support (51.69%). Of those who made use of this facility (20%), 70% said they found the service useful. This was the first time the Danica survey has included questions about seafarer mental well-being.

Danica’s Seafarers’ Survey 2023 highlights how crew training has evolved post-pandemic, with the number of seafarers receiving training via online methods almost doubling since the 2020 survey. Some 55% of respondents received training by computer based methods, and 60% of crew reported that training took place during their home periods.

Responding to a specific question in the survey in relation to Ukraine, 94% of seafarers reported that they have fled Ukraine as a result of the war with Russia. Of these, 80% fled with their families. However, almost 75% said they intend to return to Ukraine when the war is over and it is safe to do so.

(Image from Danica Crewing Services)