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Seafarer Wages in 2024

Navigating Uncertain Seas:

The year 2024 presents a complex landscape for seafarer wages. While inflation continues to be a pressing concern, a global shortage of qualified personnel is also putting upward pressure on salaries. Here’s a closer look at these competing forces:

The Inflationary Tide:

The global economy continues to grapple with rising inflation. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the global inflation rate is projected to be around 6.7% in 2023, with a slight decrease to 6.5% in 2024. This means the cost of living is rising, putting a strain on seafarer wages, which haven’t always kept pace.

The Crew Change Crisis:

The COVID-19 pandemic caused significant disruptions to crew changes, leaving many seafarers stranded at sea for extended periods. This, coupled with a pre-existing shortage of qualified personnel, has created a significant crew change crisis. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates a global deficit of over 89,000 officers by 2026. This shortage puts seafarers in a stronger bargaining position, potentially leading to higher wages.

Indexing for Inflation:

To mitigate the effects of inflation, many seafarers’ wages are indexed to a cost-of-living index. This means wages automatically adjust based on inflation rates. The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) negotiates minimum wages for seafarers with the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) through the Joint Maritime Commission (JMC). In 2023, the JMC agreed to an increase in the minimum monthly basic wage for an Able Seaman to USD 666, effective January 1, 2024, reflecting a rise from USD 658 in 2023.

In a significant development, the JMC agreed to a four-year framework agreement in 2023, securing wage increases for seafarers across the board. This agreement includes:

  • 4% wage increase for officers and ratings in 2024 
  • An additional 2% increase in 2025, bringing the total wage increase to 6% over two years.
  • Negotiations for wages beyond 2025 will take place in 2025.

Salary Trends and Uncertainty:

While some seafarers may see wage increases due to indexing and crew shortages, the overall picture remains uncertain. The shipping industry’s economic performance and regional variations can also impact wage trends. It’s important for seafarers to stay informed about their specific contracts and negotiate fair wages considering inflation and their qualifications.

Looking Ahead:

Navigating the balance between crew shortages and inflation will be crucial for the maritime industry in 2024 and beyond. Measures like investing in seafarer training and offering competitive wages will be essential to attract and retain qualified personnel. As the industry evolves, staying informed about wage trends and regulations will be vital for both seafarers and maritime employers.

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