Shortage of Officers Plagues Shipping

Dearth of experienced mariners may spell future disasters
By Ryan Riley,  Newser User
Posted Nov 16, 2007 11:12 PM CST
A long gash stretches along the Cosco Busan's hull as it anchors in the San Francisco Bay, Calif., on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2007. The vessel struck the Bay Bridge last week spilling oil into the bay. (AP...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – A blunder that dumped 58,000 gallons of oil into San Francisco Bay last week has drawn attention to a worldwide shortage of experienced mariners—and the resulting potential for future disasters. The number of ships is increasing as global trade booms, reports the Christian Science Monitor, but the current officer shortfall stands at 10,000 and is predicted to triple by 2015.

Fewer Westerners are choosing the seafaring life, despite financial incentives—pilots can earn $450,000 a year—and it's almost impossible to "come up the hawsepipe" to officer rank without a college degree. The bump in Asians taking to the high seas isn't enough to replace retirees. And forget the glamor of traveling to exotic locales; container shipping has sliced port calls from days to mere hours.