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LNG experience – supply and demand

LNG was a hot topic for shipping in 2013, and looks set to burn even brighter in the coming year. Two years ago, the world LNG fleet consisted of 362 vessels compared to the paltry 195 in 2005; and this will only grow…to 500 within the next year.

As Nakilat recently said in an article on Gulf Ship News, converting LNG to fuel and controlling gas emissions is "a high priority in today's shipping industry." This, along with the world's growing LNG fleet, will call for more experienced LNG staff, not to mention the alternative uses for LNG ships (floating regasification, storage, and so on).

So, the demand for staff with LNG experience is high, and increasing. Current LNG staff are well paid, but don't be fooled; they're not out of line with the rest of the market – not yet, anyway.

The deal is this: LNG staff know what's going on, so they're asking for large salary increases to move between jobs. But today's salary levels aren't sufficient to match these demands leaving employers are in the invidious position of deciding whether to break salary scales to recruit and / or retain.

Employers with shoreside LNG vacancies typically request 5+ years' direct LNG experience, despite the fact that most experts agree that LNG shipmanagement is no harder that tankers or LPG; repeat runs, no purging or tank cleaning and so on. We know from experience that it takes a good 15 years to produce, for example, a superintendent with 5 years' shore-based experience – taking into account cadetship, time at sea, and the years ashore.

If we look at the demand for LNG staff, we estimate – using industry averages – that the 2015 fleet of LNG vessels will require 700 core shipmanagement staff, superintendents, fleet managers and their superiors. Now, this doesn't sound like a huge demand, but in reality, there's a small pool of experienced people to recruit from. The debate between owners, managers, customers and terminals has to be around the necessity of seagoing LNG experience as master or chief engineer.

In summary? Demand for those with experience is guaranteed to exceed supply; and therefore drive up wages. The issue for employers recruiting today isn't so much what LNG staff are being paid, it's what it will take to recruit and retain them in 2014 and beyond and whether alternative candidates can be employed both to fill demand and keep costs under control.

We will have to see what the future brings. Meanwhile, Spinnaker is currently recruiting for commercial and technical LNG vacancies at director level and below. Contact Caroline Horsley (Commercial) at [email protected] or Lyn Sutters (Technical) at [email protected] to find out more.

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