With all the new and bigger cruise ships entering service over the next few years, the industry's biggest challenge may be the human element and finding enough qualified seafarers.

While recruitment needs for the cruise industry are estimated to be in the range of 50,000 over the next five years, according to Cruise Industry News, the worldwide shipping fleet will need 60,000 new seafarers every year for the next three years, according to Det Norske Veritas (DNV).
Two-thirds of the people joining the worldwide fleet of ships have never been to sea before, said Espen Cramer, head of DNV Maritime Solutions and a member of the DNV Maritime Management Group.

"We have many new ships and we have many new people at sea, which is cause for some concern," Cramer said. "At the same time, many of the most experienced European seafarers are going to other jobs, for instance, in the offshore oil and gas industry, which tend to offer better terms." According to Cramer, cruise ships require more work for less pay.

To some extent the cruise industry also has an image issue: In order to make it to the top, that is to be appointed captain, officers must not only be qualified, they must also portray the image of confidence and self-assuredness that cruise passengers expect of a captain, said Cramer. If someone does not fit that image, it may not matter how qualified he or she is, Cramer added. Hence, some of the career motivation may be missing.

Excerpted from the Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Winter 2007/2008