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salary research

How has the decline in the Dry Bulk sector affected salary trends?

I think it’s fair to say that the Dry Bulk sector has had difficult times recently and it doesn’t look as though this will be changing any time soon. We all know what impact this has had on corporate income. What about those that work for them?

Each year, the Maritime HR Association collects and analyses salary data from all over the world, churns it up and reports it back to the members. One of the key highlights we found this year was a significant drop in bonus payments, particularly for those working in the Dry Bulk sector. No big surprise there!

This pattern emerged across the majority of job families including Chartering and Operations from trainees to the big cheeses. By analysing the entire pool of data from all countries, we saw the dry bulk operations employees’ bonuses dropped from 2014 on average by 65%.

Equally unsurprising – and lucky for them (they needed some after the last few years) – those working in the tanker sector saw little if any decrease to their bonuses in 2015.

The proportion of operations staff receiving no bonus at all however has remained very consistent from the previous year. 28% of dry bulk operations staff received absolutely nothing compared with an unlucky 18% in tanker operations.

In the Chartering roles we’re seeing a similar sad story for dry bulk, yet not as consistent across all levels such as in Operations. At both junior and professional levels in dry bulk, the average bonus drop is a whopping 100%, with charterers being completely stripped of their bonus with the average at a pitiful zero. Likewise decreases of 33% and 49% can be seen at manager and director roles respectively. However of all dry bulk charterers it’s the senior charterers/ team leaders that are victorious with an average bonus increase of 13%! It looks as though that it’s the unlucky lower levels that are taking the hardest hit followed by the managers and directors; potentially bravely sacrificing their own bonuses to keep hold of their prized and skilled senior charterers.

Tanker charterer bonuses increased by an average around 65% this year across all levels of seniority. Spectacular as this sounds, it’s all relative of course – last year three-quarters of tanker charterers received less than 15% (1 in 6 getting a big fat zero). Nevertheless, these show the vast differences between the two sectors this last year and are a perfect demonstration of a turnaround in fortunes.

Most notable in their lack of Christmas cheer in 2015 were the dry bulk freight traders. This group of magicians, apparently able to make vast profits whichever way the freight ticker is heading, hit a wall last year. Apart from a few exceptions (who really must be magicians), bonuses for this group all but disappeared. Still, hopefully they hadn’t already spent last year’s!

On the contrary, the Technical and Marine roles, including Superintendents and Fleet Managers, were the least affected. Minimal effect on the bonuses for these roles in dry bulk, despite the sector’s struggle, demonstrates the high demand for these skills and the use of bonuses to retain this talent.

Jessica Forbes, Compensation and Benefits Consultant, HR Consulting, Spinnaker Global

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