Workforce shortage keeps shipping CEOs awake at night

According to a survey carried out by Danish Shipping, in which top managers in shipping companies have responded, 8 out of 10 top managers are ready to hire more people to their workforce, but new employees are hard to find.


The Danish maritime & shipping industry has a strong position in the global market. As a gatekeeper to the Baltic Sea, Denmark’s geographical location has played an influential role in their development into one of the world’s leading maritime & shipping nations. Thus, maritime transport is a crucial source of income for Denmark.

The maritime sector in Denmark consists of innovative shipyards, suppliers, providers of maritime equipment, service, technology, development, manufacturing, research, and design. Accordingly, maritime business has been a big part of the history of the Danes, hence why every corner of Denmark has been active in the shipping business, from the Viking Era all the way to present time.

Today, the Danish maritime industry employs approx. 115,000 people, representing 3.5% of the total employment. Due to the importance of the maritime industry for the Danish economy and the reputation on the global market, skilled employees are highly essential for the industry.

Danish Shipping’s Executive Director, Anne Windfeldt Trolle says in an article to Danish shipping: “If Denmark is to maintain their position as a strong and world-leading maritime nation, then we need to train skilled machinists, navigators and shipping personnel.” However, fewer students enrolled in maritime education programs in 2022, in fact it was the lowest number since 2011.

The importance of attracting and training more qualified workers is further reflected by the shipping companies need to hire more qualified people but are unable to attract them. According to a survey carried out by Danish Shipping, in which top managers in shipping companies have responded, 8 out of 10 top managers are ready to hire more people to their workforce, but new employees are hard to find. However, it is not only on the ships that the Danish shipping companies lack people, also in the offices ashore it is extremely difficult to fill vacant positions.

According to Jakob le Fevre, CEO of MARPRO, the biggest maritime recruitment company in Denmark: “The days are gone, where you could post a job ad and then receive multiple applications from qualified candidates. Shipping talent is sought after and you need a clear strategy to attract and retain skilled candidates. I believe it will be like this for the next many years to come, despite the present economic situation, because of an increasing demand for naval protection, energy islands & offshore windmills.”

CEO of Molslinjen, Carsten Jensen says in an article to Danish Shipping: “I could probably hire 50 new employees tomorrow if they were out there. Business is going really well, we are in a really good period, but we are at the limit of what we have employees for. If we are to look after our current people, then we have to get a few more. The problem is that, where previously there was always a stack of applications for each position, we now have to fight to fill almost any position. We really feel the lack of manpower.”

Another company that also experiences the recruitment crisis is the offshore shipping company Esvagt. Esvagt excepts to need up to 100 new seamen in the not too distant future, but according to an article in the Danish media Finans, Chief Executive Peter Lytzen is afraid that it will be difficult to fill the open positions and states the problem is here to stay, as not enough sailors are trained in Denmark.

Despite the corona crisis and the unstable situation in Ukraine, consumers turned to a huge demand of e-commerce and a big desire to travel. Shipping companies’ exports are at a record high and they have earned a large amount of money during the pandemic. This seems likely to continue.

However, the Danish media Finans points out that the shipping companies’ party may be closed early due to the lack of people at sea and ashore. With this great activity and the unusually low unemployment, shipping companies encounter a need for more qualified labour to handle the growing demand for trade which is difficult to obtain compared to a year ago.

Things are going well in the shipping companies, and they can see that they are going to need more people, but there is a lack of labor both at sea and on land, and this can be a growth brake,‘ says Anne H. Steffensen, managing director of the industry organization Danish Shipping in an article in Finans.

The consequences can be disastrous. Danish Shipping’s survey concurs with a similar survey conducted by the Danish Industry (DI), that also characterizes the lack of obtaining a qualified workforce as one of business life’s biggest headaches. According to Finans, of the 7,000 Danish companies asked, 58% have had to give up filling positions within the past year. The consequences have been longer hiring times, searching in vain, giving up filling positions, and turning down orders due to a lack of employees.

The CEO of DI, Lars Sandahl Sørensen is shocked by these numbers, as he states in an article in Finans: “I could hardly believe the numbers when I saw them. It’s worse than we thought. When you can’t get people, you have a fundamental problem, and the consequences are severe,‘.

While the exact outcome of this situation is undetermined, industry experts forecast demand and competition for talent will impact all maritime business areas which is also affecting other sectors such as construction, wood and paper, travel, cleaning, health, electricity, and operational service. Worst case scenario could see Danish companies facing one of the worst crises when it comes to finding employees. According to Lars Sandahl Sørensen, the employee crisis can turn into an economic crisis, because the companies are losing earnings.

Lars Sandahl Sørensen adds in the article in Finans: “I’m sorry to say it, but there aren’t any people for the things that we, have already decided on e.g. a green transition, and in a little while there won’t be any finances for that either”.  

Maritime Professionals hopes that the above info gives you food for thought and it gives you a better idea of the scale and importance of the lack of qualified employees in the maritime &shipping industry and it encourages companies to reflect on the matter.

Are you having trouble in finding qualified profiles as well?

Article shared by courtesy of Narjiss Ghajour, Marketing Manager at MARPRO, a recruitment company for the maritime industry for onshore personnel. Read more about MARPRO.

See more relevant articles about maritime recruitment HERE.

Narjiss Ghajour

Editor-in-Chief of Maritime Professionals

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