Crew cost is the main element of vessel operating cost. Shipping firms for a long time have sought to reduce operating costs by new technology. Rationalisation and automation did dampen the effect of rising crew cost after WWII. This has resulted in a fewer crew members on board. On the other hand, the time seafarers stay on-board has been reduced over the years so that the number of seafarers needed by ship owning firms to operate their fleets have not been reduced proportionally. (ILO, 1996) SOLAS Convention and the principle contained in the IMO Resolution A.890 (21).


Older vessels may have larger crews than newer vessels partly because of the higher need for maintenance and repair. This may also reflect a lower degree of automation in older vessels. Hence, changes in average age of the fleet influences demand for the maritime workforce. The heavy contracting in the boom up to 2008 increased the share of modern vessels with a high degree of automation in the world fleet thus reinforcing the change in demand for crews towards fewer but even more educated seafarers. Leggate (2005) points at the increasing concern in the shipping industry for the rising number of quality seafarers needed. Traditionally the most educated seafarers came from OECD countries. The number of theses seafarers has declined and the average age increased. Increasing supply from Far East counteract this development in numbers, but mainly for ratings and junior officers. It is natural to assume that these countries in the coming years also will supply senior officers.



Carrying capacity


LNG carrier

145600 cm


Container vessel

8200 TEU*


Oil carrier

157800 dwt


Bulk carrier

77000 dwt


Chemical carrier

11340 dwt


Multi -purpose heavy lift

12000 dwt


* TEU = twenty feet container unit

Table 2 Crew size for different new vessels.

Source Stopford (2009)



The reduction in crew size together with the shorter turnaround time in port implies that crew members are more depend on their fellow crew members for social relations while on board. In the i960s, a pioneering project studied the special challenges that arise when work colleagues are together for 24 hour a day. (Thorsrud et al 1969, Thorsrud and Roggema, 1974)


In the 1960 and 1970s, with the introduction of open registers and later also the international registers, national crews were replaced by crews from low cost countries, turning the labour market for seafarers into a global market.


The majority of the maritime labour force now comes for Asia and East Europe. This is reflected in the manning of Norwegian controlled vessels in deep-sea trades. Figure 3.16 illustrates the percentage of different nationalities on-board NIS and foreign flag vessels under Norwegian control in 2009.


Picture 19 


 Fig  15 Nationality of crew in NIS and Norwegian controlled foreign flag fleet, 2009 (ROW = Rest of the World) percentage shares

Source: Constructed from NSA data, NSA (2010)$all/428AF15BD0473C6CC125786300377A7C