Memorandum by Dr David Glen, London Guildhall
University (FUS 11)
The evidence presented below summarises the
principal findings of recent research into UK Seafarer numbers,
published in June 1998, and provides a brief review of the updating
work going on at present. The principal findings are that there
are 28,000 active UK Seafarers of whom 15,600 are active officers.
It is expected that officer numbers will fall dramatically over
the next few years, unless there is a more pro-active government
policy stance. The updating work appears to reinforce this conclusion.
UK SEAFARERS, PROFILES,
Two primary points must be emphasised. Firstly,
the most reliable elements of this evidence are those based on
certification and revalidation, these processes apply to officers,
but not to cadets or ratings. Secondly, retirement is assumed
to take place universally at 65 or at a combination of 57 years
for officers and 65 years for ratings.
The definition of active officer is based upon
the analysis of the data regarding certification, combined with
revalidation and endorsement. The data was obtained from the Maritime
and Coastguard Agency, who are responsible for the issuing of
certificates. This is currently taking place at both Cardiff and
Southamption. It is important to note that not all certificated
officers are necessarily actively employed at sea. An allowance
has to be made for certificate holders who are employed in shore-based
Research carried out in 1997 and published earlier
this year provides a detailed statistical snapshot of the state
of the UK Seafarer stock at that time (census date 30 June 1997).
A brief summary of a number of a principal findings of that study,
relating solely to UK seafarers, is given below.
|Estimated UK Seafarer Numbers as at 30 June 1997
|Retirement Age 65 years
|Total Certificated Officers||17,144
|Certificated Officers at Sea||15,601
| Deck and Engine Room||4,800
| Catering and Other||6,060
|Total Active UK Seafarers||29,134
|Total Active UK Seafarers at Sea||27,591
Table 1 gives overall numbers, but three points must be made.
Firstly, the most accurate elements in the table are those based
on the certification method; secondly, cadets are estimated through
the GAFT Scheme, since replaced by SMART, thirdly, the retirement
age is assumed to be 65 for all seafarers.
The total of certificated UK officers was 17,144; divided
into 15,601 seagoing officers and 1,543 shore based officers,
using the estimate that 9 per cent of all active officers are
in fact shore based.
The number of active cadets stood at 1,130; this is the total
of cadets going through training and therefore covers all years
of the process. It was estimated that there are approximately
10,860 active UK ratings. This figure was the least reliable of
all the analyses as it has been derived from extrapolation of
past trends using a time series model. On this basis, there are
some 4,800 deck and engine room ratings, or 37 per cent of the
total. The catering and other departments were estimated as 6,068,
some 63 per cent of all ratings.
These figures can be summarised in two different ways; firstly,
the total number of active seafarers, which is estimated to be
29,134; secondly, the total number of active seafarers at sea,
which is calculated as 27,591. The difference, as previously indicated,
is due to those officers who continue to revalidate, and remain
active by definition, but who are no longer employed in the seagoing
sector of the labour, force.
|Number of UK Officers at 30th June 1997
|Retirement Age at 65||
|Retirement Age at 57||
For UK officers, the reduction resulting from a 57 year retirement
is 2,538, or 15 per cent of the 65 year total. The distribution
of officers remains largely the same irrespective of whether the
retirement age is taken to be 57 or 65 years.
The other new piece of information presented in Table 2 is
the split of officers into their two main components, deck and
engineer. Throughout the table deck officers are a slightly larger
group than engineer officers; in all these calculations the average
is around 53 per cent for deck officers, 47 per cent engineers
Turning now to the consideration of the age distribution
of UK officers, an analysis of the age profile of all officers
was carried out. Figure 1 illustrates the age structure of the
UK officer stock as at 30 June 1997. There is a minor peak in
the 23 to 26 year age range, but the main peak occurs in the age
range 40 to mid 50 years. The figure also indicates a tiny group
(137 officers) shown up by the "active" criteria who
are 65 years of age or older. The profile reveals that some 71
per cent of all officers are 40 or more years of age.
An analysis of the departmental data contained in Table 3
reveals that 72 per cent of deck and 70 per cent of engineer officers
are aged 40 years or more. If retirement is taken to be 57, the
overall proportion becomes 66 per cent, and departmental splits
become 67 per cent for deck, 65 per cent for engineer officers.
|Age profile of UK officers at 30 June 1997
|Age to 57||7,690||6,909
The ageing officer work force is a comparatively recent development,
as the following table highlights.
|Age distribution of seafarers 1938-97
|Age group||Per cent||Per cent
||Per cent||Per cent|
|35 and over|| 49||37
|Note: 1938 figure of 10 per cent is for Under 19. 1997 UK Officers only (this research).
Source: HMSO Population Census 1971.
Some care must be taken when considering Table 4. The first
three columns are population census figures for the whole industry.
On the other hand, the 1997 figure is from the current research
and considers only officers. The census figures broadly consist
of young seafarers under 35 years of age, who constitute between
two-thirds to just under a half of all seafarers over time. For
example, in 1971, 59 per cent of all seafarers were less than
35 years old. By 1997 the percentage change is startling, with
83 per cent of officers being over 35 years of age. This serves
to highlight the potential problems for an industry of an ageing
The question arises, how unusual is this ageing labour force?
This issue was addressed by comparing the age profile of the UK
officer with that of the male working population of Great Britain,
which was derived from the latest available census, 1991. The
results are presented in Figure 2, and in Table 5.
Some 53 per cent of the total working population are under
40 years of age, whereas the relevant proportion for officers
is only 29 per cent. Only 45 per cent of the total male work force
are aged between 40 and 65 years; 2 per cent are over 65. By contrast,
71 per cent of UK officers, are over 40. This and the previous
discussion also confirms the unusually large concentration of
officers in the higher age ranges. The most accurate assessment
of ratings suggests 53 per cent of them are aged between 40 and
65, considerably older than the average for the total male work
force in Britain.
|Comparison of UK officer with male working population|
of Great Britain (1991 Census)
|Percentage distribution at 30 June 1997
|65 or more||||1.93
A detailed examination was undertaken of the levels of qualifications
within the UK officer group. Deck officers held some 6,032 (66
per cent) Class 1 certificates, out of a total of 9,156. In contrast
the distribution of the 7,988 engineer officers showed substantial
numbers holding either Class 1 or Class 4 certificates. More specifically,
3,370, (44 per cent) of engineers held Class 1 certificates, with
2,438 (32 per cent) holding Class 4; the remainder were spread
between Classes 2 and 3. There was a small minority of steam-certificated
engineers still active. This evidence illustrates the extremely
high levels of certification within the officer group.
Endorsements can abe summarised into two components, "Dangerous
Cargoes" and "Command". Approximately 33 per cent
of UK officers hold a Dangerous Cargo endorsement. A small number
of deck officers possess Command endorsements.
Some projections were created using information derived from
the database and by making a number of assumptions about future
cadet entry and the officer wastage rate. The "most likely"
projection is presented in Table 6 (See end of evidence). Assuming
an officer retirement age of 65 years the most likely outcome
is that officer numbers will decrease very rapidly from the present
total of 17,144 to 13,877 in the year 2002, falling again to 11,647
in 2007 and to 9,136 in 2012. If the retirement age is set at
57 years, the projections imply a decrease from 14,599 to 10,313
in the year 2000 falling to 7,424 in 2007, and 5,757 in year 2012.
Work is currently in hand to update the findings outlined
above. The MCA has provided access to their electronic data on
certificate issues and revalidations, which are currently held
on two distinct databases, one at Cardiff, at the RGSS, the other
at the MCA head office at Southampton. The intention is to match
the records held in these two databases to update information
held in the 1997 database. This has proved to be much more difficult
than first envisaged, for a number of reasons. First, whilst the
data held at Southampton is very complete, only 1,250 entries
have been processed relating to the period July 1997-June 1998.
By contrast, some 3,500 entries are recorded on the Cardiff database.
Second, the data held in electronic form at Cardiff relates only
to discharge book numbers, names, certificate issue numbers and
dates. No other salient information is recorded electronically.
An attempt has been made to estimate UK Officer numbers for
30 June 1998. The records of all UK Officers whose data is held
on the 1997 database were matched into the records of new issues
held at Cardiff and Southampton over the period July 1997-June
1998. Officers who validated in the year July 1992-June 1993,
and could not be matched into the MCA databases, were assumed
to have retired from the stock. This then gives an estimate of
Total Officer numbers as at 30 June 1998, given by:
"Stock at 1997" less "Revalidations last done
in 92-3" plus "Cardiff revalidations" plus "Southampton
revalidations" equals "Stock at 1998".
The estimated decline in UK officer numbers in 1997-98 is,
on this methodology, shockingly large, much larger than is provided
for in the "most likely scenario" projection, reproduced
in Table 6 below.
1998-99 MAY BE
A re-examination of the 1997 database revealed that the five-year
revalidation cycle will involve the following revalidations, assuming
that each officer revalidates in the final year of their certification
period. Revalidations will need to be around the numbers shown
in Table 7 if the stock is to remain constant. If revalidations
are lower than the numbers shown, the stock will necessarily decline.
The extent and rapidity of the decline will depend on actual revalidations.
|1 July 1997-30 June 1998||1,302
|1 July 1998-30 July 1999||4,222
|1 July 2000-30 July 2001||1,595
|1 July 2001-30 June 2002||987
|1 January 2002-30 June 2003||1,052
|1 July 1997-30 June 1998||1,102
|1 July 1998-30 July 1999||3,264
|1 July 2000-30 July 2001||1,402
|1 July 2001-30 June 2002||932
|1 January 2002-30 June 2003||990
The important point to note is the proportionately large
number of revalidations which must occur in the present year
(1998-1999), at the latest, if 7,500 (6,000 if 57 is taken as
the correct seagoing retirement age) UK officers are not to be
lost. This is in part due to the original introduction of the
certification and revalidation scheme causing an initial bunching
of certificate issues, and implies either a sharply increased
level of activity at the MCA if the majority revalidate, or a
significant drop in officer numbers if they do not.
No attempt has been made to update the estimates for ratings.
Cadet numbers have probably increased, as cadet intakes have averaged
around 450 for the past two years, whilst those reaching the end
of their career are far fewer in number. I estimate that the present
number of cadets is about 1,300, some 140 more than in June 1997.
The change however, is too small to prevent the UK Officer stock
from declining further.
In the 1997 UK Seafarer Analysis, it was concluded that:
"The statistics presented here reveal that the industry
has a well qualified but ageing work force. Given the age profile,
nearly 70 per cent of the present officers will leave the industry
in the next two decades. The implications of this are very serious
for both sea and shore based employment which requires qualified
staff with seagoing experience. There is no doubt that the evidence
regarding ratings is less accurate, but the examination so far
suggests there are similar trends. Therefore, there will probably
be an analogousif not so acutesupply problems in
the future, particularly among the highly skilled experienced
members of the work force.
An ageing work force brings stability to the industry in the
short term, but if the current trends are allowed to persist the
long-term cost will be a dwindling resource of highly qualified
seafarers. The reality for the industry is that the "long
term" can be defined as less than a decade. It would appear
that the number of cadets and junior officers presently being
trained in the industry is below that needed to maintain the present
level of experienced officers." (UK Seafarer analysis, 1997,
I see no reason to amend the above prognosis: indeed, recent
evidence on cadet entry numbers for 1998, and on officer revalidations
identified in Cardiff and Southampton, suggests that the projections
Dowden, J, D Glen, and J McConville UK Seafarer Analysis
1997 Centre for International Transport Management, London
Guildhall University, 1997, London ISBN No. 1 899764 11 9.
Reader in Transport,
Centre for International Transport,
Department of Business Studies
1 December 1998
|Projections of UK officer numbers, 1997-2032 (Most likely case, as at 30 June 1997)
|Deck (Per cent)||53.43||53.35
|Deck (Per cent)||52.67||52.53
Wastage rates 20-29 = 0.03, 30-49 = 0.03, 50 plus = 0.05, Cadet entry = 500, Cadet wastage = 0.04