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Major shortage of sailors risks hitting the Swedish economy

22 August 2023

Over the next three years, shipping needs to recruit 2,200 people. If one don't succeed, it can hit the Swedish economy, which is heavily dependent on shipping – all according to a new report from The Swedish Confederation of Transport Enterprises.

90 percent of Sweden's imports and exports take place by ship, which means that the economy is heavily dependent on shipping. Sweden therefore faces a major challenge as the industry needs to employ 2,200 people within a three-year period. According to The Swedish Confederation of Transport Enterprises new report "Tempen på sjöfartsbranschen 2023" there is an increase of 25 percent since the last measurement in 2020.

“If the shipping industry does not succeed in finding personnel, it will affect Swedish exports and imports negatively, which will result in major socio-economic consequences. We need to get more young people to want to apply for maritime vocational and university education, and we also need to create training places in adult education”, says Caj Luoma, head of skills supply, Confederation of Transport Enterprises, in a press release.

According to the report, two out of three companies have had difficulty recruiting staff in the past year. The most difficult thing is to recruit tire and machine crew, but it is generally difficult to find people with the right vocational training within the crew group, which also includes electrical engineer, cook and mess man. Officers also need to be recruited, around 500 over the next three years, which will be a challenge as many are expected to retire. For example, 100 nautical officers are expected to retire and every sixth employee in the industry is of retirement age.

The report also states that shipping needs more women. Currently, women in shipping make up only 20 percent of all employees and only 9 percent among the professional groups crew and officers.

“The content of the educations that lead to the shipping industry must continue to be of high quality and respond to the demands and needs of the industry. We believe that quality educations partly lead to more applicants for the educations, and partly that those who graduate have the skills that the industry demands. This is something that the transport companies, together with decision-makers, training organizers and authorities, need to collaborate better on”, says Caj Luoma.

The report proposes the following measures to secure maritime competence supply:

  • Review the regulations for vocational training
  • Dimension the secondary school for the needs of shipping.
  • Give companies and industries greater opportunity to influence the training courses
  • Political investments for increased gender equality in the various branches of the transport industry
  • Work with attitude issues to strengthen the attractiveness of shipping

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