Booming industry 'threatens safety'

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 March, 2008, 12:00am

A boom in shipbuilding across East Asia is fuelling an acute shortage of experienced mariners, which poses a serious risk to safety standards, industry experts warn.

New shipyards are coming on stream across China following industry expansion in the Pearl River Delta, Shanghai, Ningbo, Dalian and Tsingtao, with Vietnam and South Korea also seeing rapid growth.

'We are set to see an even greater expansion over the next five years and the whole industry - because of the rapid expansion - is suffering from a shortage of experienced staff,' one industry insider said. 'It takes 10 to 12 years to build a captain in terms of giving him the experience and security to head a vessel, but it only takes two years to build a ship.'

Classification society DNV Maritime warned last week that global accident rates for large ships had doubled in the past five years, citing the boom in shipping, a shortage of officers, lower retention rates and faster promotion as key factors.

Arthur Bowring, chairman of the Hong Kong Shipowners Association, said: 'We do have a crisis in seafarer supply. Everybody is short of people. So far we haven't laid up any ships for lack of crew but in the next two to three years we should see a situation where ships are not able to sail because they don't have the right crew.'