At the turn of the century when the marine transportation and offshore petroleum industries in Eastern Canada were beginning to experience an upturn, marine sector studies (local and international) uniformly indicated a growing worldwide downturn in the availability of marine personnel (particularly ships’ officers).
Marine workforce analyses updated every five years by the Baltic and International Marine Council and the International Shipping Federation (BIMCO/ISF) identified a shortfall of 16,000 ships’ officers in 2000, with a projected shortfall of 46,000 by 2010. By 2008, the estimated shortfall stood at 34,000 with a projected shortfall of 46,000 – 65,000 over the next few years. Despite the significant increase in demand, these studies also pointed to a dramatic decrease in supply in OECD countries, with China emerging to supplant OECD countries as the leading supplier of ships’ officers.
These studies clearly indicated a recruitment and retention problem for marine related industries, but they also identified a significant human resource development opportunity for Eastern Canada. While residents of OECD countries generally were showing an increasing reluctance to pursue marine careers, graduates of the Newfoundland and Labrador’s Marine Institute and other marine training institutions in Eastern Canada were not only showing a willingness to go to sea but were also finding rewarding careers and winning acclaim, both locally and internationally.
The fact that the shift system of shipboard life encourages commuting to work regardless of place of residence has enabled mariners from Eastern Canada to excel nationally and internationally while choosing overwhelmingly to continue residing in their home province, primarily in the rural communities. In doing so, they contribute significantly to economic development and rural sustainability while also gaining the critical international, or deep sea, experience needed to assume leadership positions at home in industries such as those associated with offshore oil development projects.
While the shortage of ships’ officers is particularly pronounced, developments and projected developments in the marine transportation and offshore petroleum industries in Eastern Canada have created, and continue to create, significant numbers of shore-based marine career opportunities, including management, clerical, design, maintenance, and other technical and technological positions.
Eastern Canada enjoys a unique advantage in having a strong maritime heritage and an internationally recognized marine training capability. The factors inhibiting Eastern Canada’s ability to take full advantage of the opportunity provided by the growing shortage of marine personnel and projected industry growth include training capacity, public awareness, and the lack of a cohesive approach to human resource issues in the marine sector.
The Marine Career Opportunities report (See COMPASS Library) contains detailed information on the demand and supply of marine transportation occupations and opportunities in Eastern Canada and internationally.