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Singapore supply runs dry

Supply of experienced dry cargo operations staff in Singapore is drying up fast. Competition for operators in Singapore with more than 5 years' experience is intense.

With numerous owner operators all fishing in the same pool, each is finding it tough to fill vacancies. Spinnaker's Matt Cornelius (right) who specialises in commercial shipping recruitment in Singapore says, "There are enough vacancies for each candidate five times over at the moment."

When you think about it, this isn't entirely surprising; Singapore's growth as a major shipping hub over the last ten years was startlingly fast. More than 1 in 6 of Spinnaker's global recruitment takes place in Singapore. Last year, we even described Singapore as the "Brad Pitt of shipping".

"There are now so many employers on the island that poaching is rife and competition for staff is never ending," says Cornelius. "Combined with the industry-wide lack of investment in new talent during the first half of the recession, there are not enough operations, chartering or freight trading staff with 5 years' experience to go round."

This tallies with analysis from The Maritime HR Forum, which forecast in its November 2013 market analysis of shipping salaries that demand for chartering and freight trading staff with a few years' experience would rocket all of a sudden. "These are the few individuals who managed to get into the market when the market wasn't really hiring new trainees," according to Michele Hawkins, who runs the Maritime HR Forum.

Still on the subject of Singapore, August 2014 sees the introduction of the Fair Consideration Framework. This is intended to ensure that employers give local people the opportunity to apply for their vacancies; and it means that all Singapore vacancies must be advertised on approved websites for at least 14 days before visa / employment pass applications for foreign workers can be considered. Given the opening sentence of this article, this is somewhat ironic.

"Singapore has possibly become a victim of its own success," says Matt Cornelius. "Singapore's central location is the perfect location for doing business. However its size and dependence upon foreign labour, high housing costs, cost of living and the incredible growth of the shipping community means that it's hard enough for employers to fill some of their roles, let alone fill them with local staff. The universities are doing their best to produce graduates with a strong shipping education, but it takes time to filter into the workplace: employers need experience now."

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