Crew wages continue to raise ship operating costs

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Ship operating costs surged by almost 16 percent last financial year, mainly as a consequence of soaring crew wages, according to the latest OpCost report from shipping accountant Moore Stephens.

OpCost 2009 shows an annual average increase of 15.8 percent in total operating costs for the range of vessel types covered in 2008.

The average rise in crew wages over that period peaked at 21.4 percent, the highest level since OpCost was first published in 2000, and more than double the increase recorded the previous year.

In almost every vessel category, crew costs accounted for the single largest increase in expenditure. For bulk carriers and tankers, the average increase in crew costs was between 22 and 23 percent.

All vessel categories experienced an increase in total operating costs over the twelve-month period and, generally speaking, the increases were more marked than in any previous year.

In stark contrast to the previous year, however, the OpCost container ship index this time recorded the lowest increase, of 10.2 percent.

Moore Stephens partner Richard Greiner said: "For the first time, the OpCost indicator has broken through the 15 percent barrier. This is sobering news at a time of depressed freight markets, and creates something of a double-whammy for owners struggling to survive in a climate of falling revenues and increased costs."

"We often hear industry comments about the adverse effect which cheap crews have on safety and efficiency, but we see no evidence of such crews in the responses received from the owners and managers of more than 2,100 ships whose details are included," he said.

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