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THE long-awaited BIMCO/ISF 2010 survey on global supply and demand for merchant seafarers was officially launched last month, with the full report due to be delivered this month.

Spinnaker's Chairman is a member of the survey steering committee: The first survey was produced in 1990 and has been updated every five years. This year's version is the most comprehensive ever.

Despite all the gloom and doom of the last two years, the research found that supply and demand for ratings are more or less balanced, although there are still shortages of officers, particularly for certain ranks and ship types like tankers and offshore support vessels. Not the confirmation of huge shortages many were expecting from the report!

This year's survey incorporates more data from China and the Far East generally courtesy of Dalian Maritime University who were involved for the first time and helped to obtain better input from Asian countries. In consequence, and as a result of expanding fields of study, it is difficult to compare this study with the previous ones in like for like terms.

The worldwide supply of seafarers is put at 624,000 officers and 747,000 ratings. Seafarer supply has increased significantly in China, India, the Philippines and in several European nations, the survey suggests. The estimate is based on those holding STCW certificates, which makes comparisons with previous surveys more difficult.

Although, according to the survey, supply and demand are roughly in balance this year, there is a slight (2%) shortage of officers. Going forward, much will depend on which of the scenarios predicted in the report will actually prove to be the case. What seems obvious, especially with the amount of newbuilding activity under way, is that the demand for quality seafarers will continue unabated.

And of course that's the real issue nowadays according to so many of our senior fleet management clients. Speaking today to the MD of one Middle East tanker fleet (Well, it's cold and snowy back in Europe!), he's concerned that superintendents just have to be better and better nowadays as the quality of crews simply isn't what it used to be. If he's right, get your head round that catch-22 threatening the industry's future.

If you'd like a copy of the 2010 report highlights, email us on [email protected]

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