The 2000 BIMCO and ISF manpower study estimated that the number of officers in the global commercial maritime fleet was 404,000 against a demand for 420,000 — implying a deficit of 4%. By 2005, the situation had improved, according to the study, with 466,000 officers against a demand for 476,000 — with a deficit of 2%. Ratings were in plentiful supply. In 2000, supply was 823,000 and demand 599,000. In 2005, those figures are put at 721,000 and 586,000, respectively.
Nevertheless the perception of a major shortage ruled by 2008, and because of the industry’s ordering binge, cries of an impending crisis emerged. A study by Drewry Shipping Consultants, ‘Manning 2009’, published in February of that year identified officer supply in 2009 at 517,000, a rise of 11% since 2005 and 28% since 1990. One third of the officers in 2009 were Asian — led by China, the Philippines and India — while eastern European officers represented one quarter of the total. Drewry estimated the shortfall to be numerically much higher than that reported by the ISF and BIMCO in 2005, at 33,000.