Shipping companies are giving maritime workers bonuses worth as much as triple their annual salary
- COSCO Shipping and Evergreen Marine handed out year-end bonuses worth 30 to 40 months of pay.
- On Wednesday, a yearly gauge of seafarer's happiness reached an all-time low.
Major shipping companies are offering workers bonuses worth as much as three years' salary in an effort to keep talent in an industry that is known for labor code violations, long months away from family, and high suicide rates.
COSCO Shipping, a Chinese state-owned company, gave workers year-end bonuses of about 30 times their monthly salary, Chinese Media group Caixin Global reported. Similarly, the Taiwanese shipping companies Evergreen Marine handed out bonuses as high as 40 times its workers' monthly pay, while Wan Hai paid out bonuses worth a full year's salary or about $36,093.
In 2021, global cargo carriers are estimated to have generated a record $150 billion in profits. The boom in online shopping and resultant supply-chain crisis during the pandemic have made the shipping industry an increasingly lucrative sector. Shipping backlogs have allowed maritime companies to boost their rates from $2,000 to as high as $20,000 for 40-foot shipping containers in the past two years.
Despite record profits, global carriers face difficulties keeping workers. On Wednesday, the annual Seafarers Happiness Index found that seamen's levels of unhappiness reached all-time lows in 2021 and that many seafarers over the age of 35 were not intending to return to sea.
"We are sleepwalking to a manning crisis," Yves Vandenborn, director of loss prevention at Standard Club, said in the press release. "Resentment is brewing amongst this critical workforce due to the lack of shore leave, uncertainty of trip duration, draconian COVID testing and general lack of recognition."
In November, Hong-Long-based company Wah Kwong Maritime Transport warned they were facing difficulty staffing ships due to flagging retention and application rates.
Maritime has long been an attractive industry, especially for workers from poorer countries, where seafaring represents an opportunity to make up to 10 times the average income in countries like the Philippines. But, the pandemic might have changed the industry for the worse as sailors wait months outside backlogged ports and early quarantine measures stranded over 200,000 seafarers at sea.
Last fall, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) warned world leaders that the "poor treatment" of seafarers during the pandemic has put "the supply chain under greater threat."
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