I don't know if there is a shortage or not in fact, but some of the things that companies have to do to keep the ships moving makes me wonder sometimes. I have been repeatedly asked to extend my hitches, return to work earlier than anticipated, and 'fill in for a week or so' while on leave. This keeps the ships moving, but certainly implies to me that a shortage of qualified personnel exists to some extent. I see people promoted very rapidly, without the benefit of gaining some experience in their current position before moving up the ladder. While I am not suggesting that you need to spend 10 years in each position prior to moving up, you do need to spend some time there. If you read some of these accident investigation reports that come out, you'll notice that very near the front is the page noting the experience of all those personnel involved in the matter, so somebody is putting great stock in the experience factor. But it seems like all the company sees is the certificate, and may not always looking at the whole picture. Certification does not always a good engineer make. I can get my wife to study my notes and she'll pass a certificate exam, but what kind of an engineer does that make her? How about all the new faces that you see when you are joining the vessel? Does that imply a shortfall of experienced people? I know we don't care who replieves us as long as someone comes up the gangway, but that doesn't always make for efficient ship-keeping. Non-experienced personnel means you have to take experienced people away from their own work and have them train the FNG's in the mysteries of your engine room. You might say that engine room is an engine room, but I beg to differ. That may have been so 40 years ago, but in this age of PLC's and microchips running your machinery, there is a bit of a steeper learning curve in my view.
Enough ranting for now, as I am on watch. Martin, excellent site, keep up the good work!